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Getting rid of a plantar wart

Plantar wart
Plantar wart
Photo: Ollie Crafoord

Plantar warts are caused by the Human Papillomavirus (HPV).  There are over 100 different strains of HPV.  Some strains can cause harmless warts on your fingers, while other strains can cause venereal warts, which have been linked to cervical cancer in women.

Plantar warts are not dangerous, although they can be painful.  The virus thrives in moist, warm areas -like the foot.  They are contageous, but only moderately so.   It is possible to pick up the plantar wart virus in the public shower of your community swimming pool or high school gym, but members of a family who use the same shower, might not catch the virus if one member brings it home.   Plantar warts can spread easily from one part of the foot to another through scratching or touching the wart.  Therefore, you might start with one wart, and within a short period of time, you might end up with many warts.  

It is not necessary to treat a plantar wart unless it becomes uncomfortable.  However, if you decide to get rid of your wart, be sure to consult with your doctor to make sure what you have is indeed a plantar wart and not something else, like a callus. 

Medical Treatments
Doctors have several remedies to treat plantar warts.  Cryosurgery uses liquid nitrogen to freeze the wart. Freezing causes the plantar wart to die and slough off.  Since HPV  is very hearty, it may take a few freezing treatments to get rid of the wart for good. 

Often, the doctor will treat a plantar wart by creating a medication called Cantharidin - which is an extract from a beetle, and combining it with salicylic acid.  The mixture is applied to the wart and then covered with a bandage. This treatment irritates the wart over time, causing it to die and disappear.  The treatment is not painful, but can irritate your skin if you are sensitive to it.

Minor surgery, using an electric needle or a laser is sometimes used in treating stubborn plantar warts.  These treatments can be painful and are pretty expensive.

Home Remedies
If you decide to treat your plantar wart at home, you can find several treatments at your local drug store for that purpose.  Some treatments such as Dr. Scholl's Clear-Away Plantar, Curad and Mediplast, use salicylic acid to disolve the wart over a period of a few weeks.  Other treatments, like Compound W Freeze-Off and Dr. Scholl's Freeze-Away are non-prescription cryotherapy products you can use to freeze the wart in the comfort of your own home. 

Surprisingly, a lot of success has been reported using everyday, houshold duct tape to get rid of plantar warts.  A piece of duct tape is placed over the wart for 6 days, then the tape is removed and the wart is washed and rubbed with a pumice stone or emery board.   Another piece of duct tape is placed over the wart and the process is repeated for up to a couple of months until the wart disappears.  Doctors believe the duct tape "therapy" works by irritating the wart, causing the body's own immune system to respond and kill the virus.