Nail & Skin Disorders

Under the Microscope: Plantar Warts

Plantar warts are benign growths that occur on the sole, heel, or ball of the foot.

 

What is it? When warts form on the plantar surface — or bottom — of the feet, they are referred to as “plantar warts.” Children and teenagers are more likely to develop plantar warts, but adults are not immune to them. Because plantar warts are often located on weight-bearing areas of the foot, they can grow deep into the skin and be quite painful. To identify plantar warts, look for firm, round, flat bumps on the foot. A single wart can multiply quickly, creating clusters of warts. Techs may see small black dots among the clusters.

How do you get it? Warts develop from exposure to the human papillomavirus (HPV). HPV enters the body through cuts or breaks in the skin, but doesn’t always develop into a wart because the immune system may kill the virus. However, there are times when conditions are perfect for the virus, and the virus begins to grow — and warts develop. Plantar warts can spread rapidly from one part of the foot to another. According to the Mayo Clinic, the virus can spread by touching or scratching. The virus can also spread by contact with skin shed from a wart or blood from a wart.

How is it treated? Plantar warts often heal through the body’s own immune system, but most people prefer to be proactive in an attempt to clear them up quickly. Clients may try an over-the-counter wart treatment that contains salicylic acid. When the salicylic acid is applied, it destroys skin cells, so warn clients to use caution. The destroyed cells should be removed by filing, and the application/removal process repeated until the warts are eliminated. Doctors remove warts by using an acid solution stronger than the one available over-the-counter, plus they are able to shave the skin that has been destroyed from the acid. Another option that has proven to be effective is freezing. Doctors administer liquid nitrogen to the site of the wart, and within a few days the dead skin peels away. Laser surgery can also be used to remove plantar warts, but because of the expense, many doctors shy away from it.

What can a tech do? Plantar warts are contagious. Techs should be very careful with implements and foot baths after servicing a client with plantar warts. Use disposable files and wash the foot bath with hospital-grade disinfectant. Thoroughly clean the service area, as warts can be spread through exposure to skin cells. While at-home remedies have proven to be effective, when techs see plantar warts on clients with diabetes or circulation problems, they should refer them to a doctor for treatment.

What else? Another treatment option is duct tape. It may sound like an old wives’ tale, but it’s true. The Mayo Clinic reports: In “duct tape therapy,” people covered their warts in duct tape for six days, soaked them in water, and then gently rubbed warts with an emery board or pumice stone. The hypothesis of why duct tape works is that the irritation caused by the tape may stimulate the body’s immune system to fight off the wart.

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