We often think of warts infecting the bottom of your foot as a warm weather problem, because that’s when you go barefoot, but in fact, it’s an all year-issue. That’s because, in cold temperatures, we often bundle up in layers of socks and thick snow boots, creating an environment that is dark, holds moisture, and is enclosed: the perfect breeding ground for warts. So especially in the cooler weather, do not let your guard down. In order to protect yourself from warts, wear socks that are a blend, not 100% cotton, so moisture is wicked away from your skin. Also, air out your boots and make sure your feet are not sweating inside them. And, when you take off those boots and socks, inspect your feet for any signs of warts. Not sure what to look for? Just keep reading for this handy, comprehensive guide to warts.
What are Warts and What Do They Look Like?
When inspecting your feet for signs of warts, you may notice spots that seem to be areas of hard skin or calluses. But if there are black dots or an interruption of skin lines in those spots, chances are you’re dealing with a wart.
Warts are caused by a virus that lives between the layers of skin on the bottom of the foot. Your body's immune system does not actually detect the virus as something that should not be there, so the virus happily spreads, undetected, to other parts of your foot, or even to the other foot.
Warts actually create their own blood supply, by causing your skin to develop new, tiny blood vessels (called capillaries). Our bodies create calluses on top of the warts in order to protect them, so, when you come in to be treated for warts, one of the first steps we’ll have to go through is carefully scraping away this extra, dead skin. That way, we can expose the wart that’s underneath, and get started on your treatment plan.
How Are Warts Treated?
Many people assume that plantar warts are impossible to get rid of....False!
Many people assume that they can use an over the counter wart freezer... False!
Many people think "They are just warts, no big deal"...Wrong again!
Granted, no one ever became gravely ill because of a plantar’s wart, but as we mentioned earlier: left untreated, they do spread. Or get bigger and more painful. That’s why we want you to come in to our Elmhurst podiatry practice at the first sign of a wart.
At that first visit, after we expose your wart to see what we’re dealing with, we will initiate a treatment plan to help you get rid of it in the fastest way possible. Now, bear in mind: it does take a little work and the right treatment regimen to banish those warts. Unfortunately, over the counter meds usually don't work. Why is that the case?
Most wart treatments fail because they try to destroy the wart. But if we can get your own body to mount an immune response to that wart, your treatment will be far more successful. Here’s how we do it.
Your 3-Step Plan to Banishing Warts for Good
Once we have exposed the wart itself, one of our podiatrists applies high grade acid to the area. This acid serves to: 1) Cause a response in the skin surrounding the wart, so the virus ‘feels unwelcome’ and eventually leaves, and 2) Activate your immune system to recognize that the virus shouldn't be there, further recruiting cells to fight the virus. Because your own body's immune system is working to fight the virus, with lots of care and persistence, the wart eventually leaves and stays away. That’s why in-office wart treatments have such a high success rate, and a far lower chance of recurrence.
Next, we provide you with a home-care plan. After all, getting rid of a wart is a team effort. While our podiatrists will trim your wart callus and apply the medication that initiates treatment, success is also dependent on what you do between visits. We recommend a product called “wart stick,” which is a 40% salicylic acid product. This helps to continue treating the wart in between trips to your podiatrist.
In some cases, warts are extraordinarily virulent and difficult to get rid of. This is sometimes related to their size and/or the number of warts you have on your feet. If this is your case, we may also prescribe a topical cream to apply to the warts in between appointments—this compound works well for more difficult warts. It may also prove useful in treating a wart that doesn’t respond the way we’d hope by your third in-office treatment.
At this point, you may be asking: what about freezing warts? Isn’t that my best bet? Well, it’s true that freezing works well for growths on parts of the body where your skin is thin. But the skin on the bottom of your feet is thicker, which means freezing treatments are less effective on plantar warts—the cold simply can’t penetrate to the wart within the deeper layer of the skin.
So, now you know our basic attack plan for warts on your feet. But, if you have questions on how to treat a wart, or you are not even sure if what you have is a wart, make an appointment with one of our doctors. We will perform a thorough exam and come up with a treatment plan to get rid of it!