The Center for Podiatric Care and Sports Medicine

How to Remove Plantar Warts: Home Remedies to Cryotherapy

Posted by on Tuesday, November 4th, 2014

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Plantar warts can be an embarrassing problem, but they needn’t be. Warts on the feet do not protrude in the same way as warts on the face or hands. They tend to become compacted into the foot and are often confused as calluses or dry skin. When one examines them very carefully, small black spores are visible in the center of the colony. While not embarrassing, a foot wart is never a good thing to see because they are very difficult to treat and may return even after a “successful” clinical outcome. There is no industry standard for how podiatrists may treat warts on the feet, so it’s up to the patient’s discretion which route is taken.

plantar wart treatment
A plantar wart may not be the end of the world. Image Source: BinghamMemorial.org

1. Salicylic Acid

Applying an acid preparation to the plantar wart is not painful or invasive, but it does require patient compliance. You’ll need to soak the foot in warm water, apply the acid cream directly to the wart, and cover it with a bandage every day for a couple of months. Eventually, the wart should be pulled up to the surface and become so soft it can be rubbed off with a pumice stone or sliced gently with a razor at the podiatrist’s office. Sometimes patients feel pain or increased sensitivity with this treatment and need to reduce treatment to every third day. NY podiatrists rarely use acid as a standalone treatment, but rather, as a combination therapy.

2. Excision

According to WebMDthe goal of treatment is to remove the plantar wart without creating scar tissue, which “can be more painful than the wart itself.” Podiatric surgeons like to numb the foot with a shot and go in to cut out the wart because it’s a quick procedure that can be done right in the office. While it’s generally one of the more effective treatments, it is possible that the surgeon will not cut wide enough and the wart will not be fully removed. Warts can also come back if the patient does not take care to avoid direct contact with surfaces where HPV may live. With excision, you will have to nurse a hole in the foot for a few weeks, and it is possible that scar tissue will grow in, making it feel as though you are always walking on a marble, which can be more irritating than the wart itself.

3. Cryotherapy

Cold treatment sounds high-tech, futuristic, and painless, so many patients ask about this method of treatment. Cryotherapy works especially well for warts on the hands–which just fall off with one treatment typically. However, plantar warts that are deep in the foot often require four to five treatments, spaced at least a week apart. Patients may experience pain during and for up to five days after treatment, which limits the effectiveness of therapy. Podiatrists often tell their patients, “If I’m going to hurt you, I’d rather do it once [with excision] and get it over with!”

4. Home Remedies

Applying Duct tape to a wart is one of the most common home remedies. One study found an 85 percent success rate for children whose warts were treated with Duct tape. It’s believed that Duct tape starves the wart colony of what it needs to thrive in a way similar to acid. The treatment is simple and painless. Unfortunately, the results are not as promising for adults. A preliminary study saw only a 10 percent success rate with occlusion alone, although most patients saw a substantial reduction in size after 12 weeks. When combined with topical treatment (like 5-fluorouracil or imiquimod) this home remedy for plantar warts can be promising, according to Podiatry Today. 

5. Do Nothing

Warts spontaneously resolve on their own within a two-year period in 60 percent of all cases, according to Podiatry Today. “Although they can be bothersome and sometimes hard to treat, plantar warts do not pose any serious health concerns, nor do they increase your risk for any other health problems,” The Chicago Tribune reports. The Baltimore Sun echoes this opinion, stating, “With many warts, the best treatment often is to do nothing.” The director of pediatric dermatology at John Hopkins School of Medicine told the newspaper that two-third of common warts will go away on their own within two years anyway.

Live in NYC? Want an Expert Opinion on Your Plantar Wart?

The Center for Podiatric Care and Sports Medicine can give you a diagnosis and expert opinion on your plantar wart. If you wish to pursue treatment, we can hook you up with topicals, cryotherapy, or an appointment for excision. We may recommend combining multiple therapies for maximum efficiency. In some cases, we may suggest a “wait-and-see” approach. You’ll never know unless you book your appointment.

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If you have any foot problems or pain, contact The Center for Podiatric Care and Sports MedicineDr. Josef J. GeldwertDr. Katherine Lai, Dr. Ryan Minara and Dr. Mariola Rivera have helped thousands of people get back on their feet. Unfortunately, we cannot give diagnoses or treatment advice online. Please make an appointment to see us if you live in the NY metropolitan area or seek out a podiatrist in your area.