Plantar warts are fleshy growths that form on the side or the bottom of the foot, causing pain ranging from mild to severe, depending on the size of the growth and its location. Without treatment, warts can grow to become quite large, causing considerable pain when walking and when wearing shoes. Plantar warts can affect anyone, but infection is more common among people with compromised immune systems or circulation problems, including people with diabetes.
Plantar warts are caused by a virus that thrives in warm, damp environments like locker rooms and public showers. The virus can be easily transmitted from one person to another, and walking barefoot in these damp areas increases the chances of becoming infected. Warts can also be contracted by wearing shoes or socks worn by a person infected with the virus. The virus typically enters the skin through a small opening like a tiny cut or blister. Once inside the skin, the virus replicates and spreads. The wart itself represents the visible symptom of the virus, but the actual virus usually extends deep into the tissue. In order to eradicate the virus and destroy the wart, treatments must reach these deeper layers to destroy the virus roots.
In mild cases, plantar warts may be treated with prescription topical medications designed to penetrate deeply into the tissue. More often, warts must be destroyed using more advanced treatment options including cryotherapy (the use of extreme cold to freeze and destroy the wart tissue) or lasers. In some cases, the wart may need to be excised (cut away). Over-the-counter preparations should not be used to treat warts since the medications they use are not strong enough to penetrate to the deeper layers of tissue where the virus is rooted. Although these preparations may appear to cause the wart to shrivel or dry up, the virus can still thrive beneath the skin and cause reinfection. For that reason, it’s very important to have a wart evaluated and treated professionally. Professional evaluation can also rule out other issues like skin cancer.
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