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Did You Know That Your Warts Are Caused by a Virus?

Nov 10, 2023
If you’ve ever had a wart, you might be familiar with the rough, grainy growths that typically appear on hands or feet. Did you know, though, that a viral infection causes warts? And yes, just like any other virus, it’s contagious.

Up to 33% of children and teens and 5% of adults in the United States develop warts in any given year. They’re caused by the human papillomavirus (HPV) and are most common on the face, hands, fingers, feet, and toes.   

If your immune system is healthy, warts usually clear on their own. Unfortunately, that can take up to two years. On the other hand, there are professional-grade treatments that yield much faster results.

At Metroplex Foot and Ankle, LLP, in Dallas, Garland, and Richardson, Texas, our podiatrists focus on treating the plantar warts that appear on feet and toes. Read on as our expert team discusses the virus that causes warts, and explores treatments that help clear these frustratingly persistent and sometimes painful skin growths.

Understanding plantar warts

There are more than 100 strains of HPV, but only a few cause warts on the feet. These warts appear on the bottom, or plantar surface, of the foot — most commonly on the heel, ball of the foot, and bottom of the toes.

Because of the pressure your weight places on the bottom of your feet when you stand, walk, and run, plantar warts tend to grow inward, developing a thick callus at the surface layer. This can cause significant irritation and discomfort when you bear weight, making it feel like you’re walking on tiny, rough pebbles.   

How did I get plantar warts?

The HPV strains responsible for plantar warts thrive in warm, moist environments like showers, locker rooms, bathrooms, public saunas, and pool areas. It enters the body through tiny cuts or weakened areas of the skin. Warts can also spread from contact with another wart.

Walking barefoot in communal areas, especially if you have a cut or abrasion on the bottom of your foot, increases your risk of contracting the HPV strain that causes plantar warts. Even towels tossed casually on the ground after a swim can pick up and spread the virus.  

The virus that causes warts is widely present throughout the environment, but not everyone who encounters HPV develops a growth. Healthy immune systems often destroy the invading virus before a wart develops.

Preventing plantar warts  

You can’t always prevent plantar warts, but wearing flip-flops or pool shoes in public locker rooms or pool areas may help prevent contact with the virus. Also, avoid sharing towels, razors, and other personal items.

If you do develop warts, our team recommends keeping your feet dry, since moisture allows the virus to thrive. Additionally, avoid picking or scratching them, which can make them spread.

Treating plantar warts

It can take several weeks to several months to notice resolution, but plantar warts may respond to over-the-counter treatments that contain salicylic acid. 

However, we strongly recommend that anyone with diabetes consider professional care because of increased infection risk and other potential complications. Children and teens also benefit from specialty care because of their vulnerability to the wart virus. 

Otherwise, schedule a visit for plantar warts if you have numerous warts or develop itching, burning, bleeding, or pain with weight-bearing. Also, consider an evaluation if you’ve never had a plantar wart before, as other skin problems are sometimes mistaken for warts.

Our team develops a personalized treatment plan for plantar warts that may include:

  • Prescription medication
  • Laser therapy
  • Cryotherapy (freezing the wart)
  • Minor surgical excision

For outstanding podiatry care, including comprehensive wart treatment, schedule a visit at Metroplex Foot and Ankle, LLP, by calling your nearest office in Dallas, Garland, or Richardson, Texas, today, or requesting an appointment online any time.