Plantar warts are warts that appear on the sole, heel or ball of the foot. It is caused by the human papillomavirus (HPV) and due to its location can become irritated and painful as each step puts pressure on the wart. This can cause it to grow deeper into the skin, adding to the pain and making it more difficult to treat. Throughout the course of treatment, a variety of measures may be employed to help alleviate pain.
The first step in relieving pain associated with plantar warts is to reduce the amount of pressure being placed on the wart itself. Wrapping the affected foot with gauze or wearing very soft, cushioned insoles in your shoes can help alleviate excess pressure being placed on the wart. Additionally, soaking the wart in warm water may soften the callus covering it, allowing it to effectively "breathe" and make walking on it less painful.
Most treatment methods—such as cryotherapy (freezing) and electrocauterization (burning)—are effective at removing the wart entirely, though they can be painful and possess the potential of causing painful side effects such as blistering. One of the least painful methods of simultaneously removing warts and reducing pain is through the use of over-the-counter medicated pads containing salicylic acid. These pads work by cushioning the wart and reducing pressure that's being placed directly on it, all while medicating it.
Salicylic acid works by exposing the virus through the gradual softening of the callus covering the wart. This allows the skin, which will become white and very soft, to be rubbed off. Although effective, salicylic acid does have the potential of destroying healthy skin as well, so the medicated pads should be cut down to fit the wart before applying the cushion.
In the end, however, the only way to effectively eliminate plantar wart pain is to remove the wart entirely, especially if the pain is severe. Repeated treatment of salicylic acid can work, as can the other methods mentioned above. Whatever option you choose, however, should be discussed with a physician to determine potential side effects and the levels of pain involved with each one.
The best way to avoid plantar warts is to prevent any possibility of the HPV virus from entering your system. This involves proper bandaging and care of any cut, scrape or other injury to the foot, as well as wearing sandals when using a public shower. This can also help you avoid tinea pedis, also know as athlete's foot. The foot should always be kept clean and dry, and avoid picking at or touching the wart, as this will decrease the risk of the virus spreading to others and even yourself. If you must touch the wart, be sure to wash your hands thoroughly with soap and water.