(Verrucae Plantaris, Papillomas)


What are warts?

Warts are viral infections that occur in the skin, changing the appearance of the skin.  

What's a plantar wart, and how are they different from regular warts?  

The word "plantar" is a descriptive term relating to where they are located, the bottom (or plantar surface) of the foot.  Thus, the term describes where they are located more than describing a unique type of wart.  

So plantar warts are the same as regular warts?  

They are the same type of infective virus, yes.  But plantar warts are a little different than regular warts because they tend to grow inward from the forces of your weight being placed on it when you stand, and because the skin on the plantar portion of the foot is quite a bit thicker than most other portions of your skin.  This makes them harder to treat than warts on other parts of the body.  

What do warts look like?   

Although warts and calluses are quite different, each can look very much like the other, and it can be very difficult differentiating between the two.  This is because warts are often covered by a thick layer of skin (a callus). 

How can you tell them apart? 

There are some ways to tell the two apart.  As a rule:

  • Warts will often (but not always) have black dots in the middle of them.  Calluses do not typically have these black dots.  Note this in the picture on the left.

  • If you shave down the thickened skin surrounding a wart, you often get pin-point bleeding, a finding usually absent with calluses.  

  • Warts have broken skin lines (the kinds of lines that make up your fingerprints).  With calluses, the skin lines usually pass right through the lesion unaltered.

  • Warts tend to hurt more with squeezing; when calluses hurt, it tends to be more a result of direct pressure. 

Making the correct diagnosis is very important, as calluses and warts are often treated in very different ways, and because warts can spread across your foot and to the feet of others.  

How do you get warts? 

It's an infectious process, spread from person to person.  However, you have to be susceptible to that virus (have no immunity to it), you have to be exposed to the virus, and you have to have some type of break in the skin.  It doesn't need to be much; sometimes just a simple scratch is enough. 

Where can you get infected? 

You can get warts anywhere your foot is in open contact in an environment where others with warts are present.  That's why people often say they probably got their warts at the pool.  It's not the pool itself that's the problem; the problem is walking around barefoot in the locker room, on the pool deck, or the shower area--wherever someone else with a wart has walked.  Public showers are most likely because person after person stands in the exact same spot, and the warm damp environment. 

Can you pick up warts anywhere else? 

You can get warts anywhere you may have been exposed to a wart. 

For example, warts are often spread at home, if a family member has a wart, particularly if you're both bare foot in the same area--like standing in front of a sink brushing your teeth or standing under the same shower head.  So once one person in the house has a wart, sometimes others at home get one, too.   

How do you treat plantar warts? 

Plantar warts can be extremely difficult to treat, and for this reason, a lot of treatments have been developed to treat warts.  Most physicians find good success with repeated application of specific chemicals, freezing, burning or chauterizing the warts, or through various types of surgery.  

It is important to try to avoid treatments that are more likely to scar, as walking on a scar after the wart is gone can be more uncomfortable that the wart itself. 

Why can't you kill the wart with an antibiotic?

Antibiotics only work against bacteria, not viruses. 

What's the difference between bacteria and viruses?

If you're interested in information on the differences between bacteria and viruses, why antibiotics only work on bacteria and not viruses, or if you're interested in infections in general, we have a web page on infections that discusses this topic in more detail: 



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The Achilles Foot Health Centre
S. A. Schumacher, D.P.M., F.A.C.F.A.S., F.A.C.F.A.O.M.  
Dr. S. A. Schumacher, Podiatric Corporation  

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