Warts are localised thickenings of the skin, and the term ‘plantar wart’ is used for those that occur on the soles of the feet (the ‘plantar’ surface). They are also known as verrucas.
What causes verrucas?
Verrucas are a form of infection with a virus called the ‘human papilloma virus’ (HPV virus for short). Infection of the cells of the outermost layer of the skin (the epidermis) with this virus results in this top layer of skin growing and thickening, creating the non-cancerous skin growth that is a wart.
Plantar warts are caught by contact with virally-infected skin scales. These are usually encountered on such surfaces as the floors of public locker rooms, shower cubicles and the tiled areas around swimming pools. However, the virus is not highly contagious, and it is unclear why some people catch plantar warts while others do not. The virus enters the skin through tiny breaks in the skin surface. Moistness and maceration (softening of the skin due to moisture) on the feet make infection with the wart virus easier. People with weak immune systems are more likely to get warts. This is because the body is less able to fight off the HPV virus.
Symptoms of verrucas
Some plantar warts are uncomfortable, particularly if they are on a weight-bearing area (eg. sole of foot) when it may feel like having a stone in your shoe.
What do verrucas look like?
Plantar warts can occur anywhere on the soles and toes, and they often involve the weight-bearing areas. They vary in size from just a few millimetres to more than one centimetre. Each has a rough surface that protrudes slightly from the skin surface, surrounded by a horny collar. Close inspection of a plantar wart may reveal small black dots (which are blocked blood vessels). An individual may have one or many verrucas, sometimes associated with warts elsewhere on the body.
Diagnosis of verrucas
Usually this is easy, and based simply on the appearance. However, sometimes it may be hard to tell a plantar wart from a corn. One helpful point is that plantar warts interrupt the fine skin ridges on the sole, whereas corns do not. Your Chiropodist may need to pare down the area to be certain of the diagnosis; he/she will be looking for the small black dots which confirm the diagnosis of a viral wart. No other investigations are needed.
Chiropodist James Pedley has a twice weekly chiropody clinic on Tuesdays and Thursdays at Whelehans Pearse St Mullingar. We offer reduced rate on Tuesdays for over 60s of €25. Call 04493 34591 to book a chiropody appointment.
For comprehensive and free health advice and information call in to Whelehans, log on to www.whelehans.ie or dial 04493 34591 (Pearse St) or 04493 10266 (Clonmore). Find us on Facebook.