Plantar warts are warts that form and grow on the bottom of the foot. Most warts can be diagnosed by a physical examination of the foot, but in some cases, a biopsy or other test may need to be performed to ensure the growth is a wart and not a skin cancer or other type of lesion. Like other kinds of warts, plantar warts are caused by a viral infection, and they can spread from one person to another. Common modes of transmission include sharing shoes, socks or towels used by someone who is infected with warts. Walking barefoot in warm, damp environments where the virus is most common, such as public pools and locker rooms, can also increase the chances of becoming infected.
Plantar warts can be very painful, especially when they occur between toes or when pressure is applied, as well as when wearing shoes. Warts tend to be more common among people with diabetes and those with compromised immune or circulatory systems.
Once the virus that causes warts has entered the foot, usually through a tiny cut or another opening in the skin, it establishes itself in the deeper layers of tissue where it can be protected, growing and multiplying and eventually resulting in the fleshy growth that is visible on the bottom of the foot. In fact, the fleshy growth that is visible is usually a small fraction of the actual wart, most of which is buried beneath the tissue. To eradicate them, plantar warts require professional treatment to penetrate to these deeper layers to eliminate the entire wart. Over-the-counter medications are not strong enough to remove the entire wart, enabling it to grow again. Warts can be treated with cryotherapy to freeze the virus, killing it and preventing re-growth, or with lasers or other procedures to destroy the entire wart.
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