Warts can be quite annoying, especially if they occur on the sole or plantar surface of the foot. These plantar warts are not only unpleasant cosmetically, but because the entire weight of the body presses against them continuously when standing or walking, they can be very painful. Usually they are rough, bumpy and spongy, although some appear thick and scaly. Most are gray or brown, and have a center with one or more dark pinpoints. These are tiny capillaries that supply blood to the wart. Scraping the wart may cause it to bleed. Untreated, plantar warts may grow up to an inch in circumference and spread into clusters.
Warts are benign tumors that can occur anywhere on the skin. They are caused by the human pappiloma virus (HPV), a common organism that everyone is exposed to throughout life. The virus invades the body through tiny cuts or breaks in the skin. Normally, antibodies in the blood kill the virus. In some people, especially teenagers and adolescents the bodies immune system does not respond vigorously enough to kill the human pappiloma virus, and the HPV begins to grow in the skin.
Fortunately, the bodies immune system will eventually development an effective antibody to this virus and the wart will spontaneously disappear. While they last, though, they are ugly, irritating and often painful. For these reasons, they may need to be removed.
There are many different treatments for warts and your doctor will usually recommend the treatment that has been most successful for them but unfortunately all treatments or only about 80% effective. Some of the more common techniques for removing plantar warts are:
Currettement: In this technique, the physician uses a small surgical instrument called a currette to remove the wart under local anesthetic. It is often the procedure of choice when many small warts are present in a particular area. It also can be used in combination with acid in an attempt to kill the virus and hopefully to prevent the warts from regrowing.
Acid: One of the most common methods is to burn them off with a mild acid applied topically to the wart. This disintegrates the viral cells and allows normal healthy skin to replace them. Multiple applications may be required over the course of several weeks to achieve this, but the technique is no more successful than any other.
Cryotherapy: Freezing warts with a very cold solution like sodium nitride can kill the virus. This causes the wart to turn black an eventually fall off within a few days.
Laser Treatment: New technology has enabled doctors to use lasers to kill the virus in warts. The procedure, sometimes performed in the physician's office, is effective, clean and accurate. Unfortunately, it also is expensive. Some physicians shy away from laser treatment for warts because the benefits are not dramatic enough to warrant the cost.
Unfortunately, regardless of which technique your physician uses the warts can reoccur. This indicates the bodies immune system is still not responding to the virus. However, this is not cause for undue alarm eventually the body will develop a antibody to the virus and that is why is rare to see warts in adults unless they are immuno-compromised.