I haven’t had a wart in years. There was a time, mostly during the later high school years, in which they were a constant problem on my feet. I am sure it has to do with the fact that I haven’t walked around in a locker room without shoes since 1996. You see, plantar warts are caused by a contagious agent called the human papillomavirus. HPV is the virus behind all warts, including finger and genital warts, and the ones growing on every witch’s nose. It is also the virus that has been linked to cervical cancer. However, plantar warts can be dealt with in a variety of manners that are effective.
Warts aren’t anything to get too worked up about, though. It just means you have had the misfortune of coming into contact with a very common virus. If they are just the kind on your feet, for the most part, you are the only one that has to know anything about their existence. That being said, there are plenty of reasons to want to get rid of them. If they get too big, they can make walking uncomfortable, much like bunions or corns. If you share a shower with someone else, there is always the possibility of passing them along—which might be frowned upon. Thankfully, there are a lot of home remedies out there for getting rid of warts. They almost always work, and if they don’t, you should definitely ask a doctor for advice.
How do you know it is a wart?
Plantar warts, because of their location, tend to be flush with the surface of the foot and grow inwards. They may appear as a small white ring of dry skin with dark spots in the middle, which are dead capillaries. The “finger-print” lines will go around a wart; whereas, in the case of a callus or bunion, the lines will continue over the area.
Other Common Skin Problems of the Feet
- Blisters: Serum-filled pockets in the skin caused by friction, burning, freezing, infection, or exposure to chemicals.
- Bunions: A skeletal deformity of the bones in the big toe that cause bumps and irritation on the skin, and are often quite painful.
- Callus: An area of skin which has been thickened by frequent friction.
- Corn: A type of callus which forms between and on the edges of toes.
Best Ways to get rid of Plantar Warts
Hot Water Baths
Hot water baths can help you get rid of plantar warts. Softening the skin around the wart is the first step in most of these wart removal methods. The calloused skin surrounding and covering the wart becomes easier to remove. In addition, the affected area pops out a little bit, making it very apparent where the wart is located. Another option is to use apple cider vinegar in place of water for your foot bath. It won’t smell too nice, but the acid in the vinegar can help to kill the virus causing the warts. And it’s natural.
Salicylic acid based wart removers are a good option. Most over-the-counter wart medications contain an active ingredient similar to aspirin. Salicylic acid is a common ingredient in acne and dandruff medication, and it works by causing skin cells to shed more quickly. When using this medication to remove warts, the first step is to first soak the area in warm water for 10‒15 minutes to soften the skin. Next, you need to remove a layer or two of dead skin to expose the core of the wart cylinder. A foot rasp, a pumice stone, or foot file would do the trick nicely. Finally, apply the medication, allowing it to dry undisturbed for at least 15 minutes. After that, keep it covered with an adhesive bandage. Repeat the treatment daily until the wart comes out of the skin—usually within a week or two. 6-pack of Mr. Pumice stones from Amazon.
Occlusion of the wart tumor and the surrounding area will get rid of plantar warts. This is just a fancy way of saying that you are putting duct tape on your body. It can be a messy process, but it still works. Simply cut a piece of tape slightly larger than the wart, slap it over the area, and check back in about six days. You could also attempt to defeat the wart by combining the tape method with salicylic acid method described above. When you remove the tape, you will notice that the wart has risen up from the skin a little bit. It will also appear wrinkled, as if it had just finished a long soak in a bath. Remove that skin as described above, add the salicylic acid, and slap on some more tape. Complete removal shouldn’t take more than a week or two. Gotta love using duct tape to cure what ails you.
Freezing is another good option for removing warts. The use of liquid nitrogen to freeze off plantar warts has long been the bastion of wart-removing physicians, as well as farmers who have access to the stuff for use in artificial insemination. It was one of the perks of working on a dairy farm in high school during the wart years. Every few months would find us gathered around the liquid nitrogen tanks, freezing each other’s plantar warts. Now that I think about that, it does seem a bit odd. Anyway, it doesn’t matter, because now you can buy aerosol bottles that are designed for freezing warts at home. They are similar to the canned air dusters that we all use to blow potato chip crumbs out of our keyboards. Instead of an open tube, the tip has a pad which is placed against the wart area for 30 seconds as the trigger is depressed. I won’t lie—it’s going to hurt a little. You’ll be left with a little white area. The skin will die and fall off in a few days, and your wart will officially be gone. This is not a cure for warts. They may or may not come back. Amazon sells Compound W Freeze Off for warts.
Cleanliness will help to prevent warts from spreading. As important as getting rid of the current wart is the prevention of future warts. Unfortunately, there is no cure for human papillomavirus. There is a vaccine available that can prevent infection of the more dangerous strains of the virus, but not the kinds that cause plantar warts. I guess medical researchers saw the threat of cervical cancer as taking precedence over an uncomfortable walk. If you visit a place like a gym, where it is customary to shower afterward, bring along some beach flip-flops so that you can avoid walking in other people’s germs. If someone in your household has plantar warts, make sure that they get them treated immediately. Proceed to thoroughly clean your shower with a strong vinegar solution.
Sometimes you need to go deeper
If the time frame of these home treatments doesn’t suit you, or if your wart problem has grown bigger than you think you can treat at home, do not hesitate to go to a doctor. The plantar warts that I have experienced were all limited to the balls of my feet, but they can spread from heel to toe. They can form clusters of a dozen or more warts in what are called mosaic wart plaques. Removal of something like that could be a difficult task.
Podiatrists have more advanced options available to them that could make the difference. If you have tried the home freezing technique to no avail, it is quite likely that a doctor will know how to do it more effectively. Laser therapy can be used to burn warts off your feet, but it takes a couple sessions and is said to be quite painful. Traditional surgery can remove the whole wart outright, but you will need a couple days off your feet for recovery time.
Currently, there are several injections being developed which encourage the body’s immune system to take care of the problem itself by tricking it into reacting to the injected agent. Unfortunately, they are all quite expensive. Also, I’m not sure if they are widely available at this point, but it does mean that there is hope for the future.
Natural Treatments for Plantar Warts
This is my mother’s secret plantar wart removal method, and I can attest to its efficacy. What’s great about it is that you do it while you are sleeping, so it doesn’t change your day-to-day life:
- Cut a leaf off of your aloe vera plant (you do have one, don’t you?), and then split the leaf in half.
- Cut into small pieces that are big enough to cover the plantar wart, and store the rest in an airtight bag or container in your refrigerator.
- Using an ACE bandage or athletic tape, wrap your feet so that you keep the aloe vera in contact with the wart while you sleep.
- The wart area will come out of your skin after a week or so, and you can speed that up by removing dead skin as you go along.
Tea Tree Oil
This multitasking extract from the leaves of the Melaleuca tree (Melaleuca alternifolia) should be added to a cotton ball or bandage and held against the wart for as long as is practical. The oil is known to have antibiotic and anti-fungal properties. It will help to kill the wart, and, with time, the wart will fall off on its own.
Banana and Garlic
I know, it sounds like the worst ice cream sundae ever. However, these two food items are both said to have curative properties against plantar warts. Just rub banana peel or garlic clove on the wart several times a day for a couple of weeks. Keeping the area covered with an adhesive bandage between treatments will keep the juice of the banana or garlic in contact with the area.