Plantar warts, known medically as verruca plantaris, are small, non-carcinogenic (non-cancerous) cell growths that grow on the soles of the feet. These warts are caused by the human papillomavirus (HPV), which enters through a cut or abrasion on the sole of the foot and infects the surrounding skin. Unlike other warts which are thicker and grow elsewhere, plantar warts are usually flat and covered by calluses and are smooth to the touch. Like other warts, they are also contagious, and are more common in those with weakened immune systems and like to walk barefoot in showers and public locker rooms. Getting rid of plantar warts can be difficult, especially if you choose to do it at home, but there are several potentially effective methods described in this article.
Part 1 of 3: Using Home Remedies
Step 1. Use a pumice stone
Since the main source of pain in most cases of plantar warts is the layer of callus (thickened skin), scrape the wart with something abrasive to relieve the symptoms. Pumice stones are an inexpensive natural option for removing dead skin and calluses, but be aware that they cannot completely remove plantar warts - they usually grow under the skin. Before using the pumice stone as an exfoliant, soak your feet in warm water for 15-20 minutes to soften the calluses.
- People with diabetes or peripheral neuropathy should not rub a pumice stone into the soles of their feet, because their sense of touch is not very sensitive, so the tissue on the soles can also be eroded and damaged.
- Most plantar warts are not considered a serious medical problem and should not necessarily be treated, especially if they are not painful - sometimes, these warts also go away on their own.
Step 2. Apply the salicylic acid solution
Another technique for removing calluses from plantar warts is to apply an over-the-counter salicylic acid solution - you can buy one at a pharmacy. Salicylic acid is a type of keratolytic, which is useful for destroying the keratin (protein) in warts and calluses. However, keratolitis also destroys/irritates healthy skin, so be careful when you use it (whether in liquid, gel, or ointment form). Soak the feet and scrape the calluses with a pumice stone or stone before applying salicylic acid (up to 2 times a day). This is useful so that the medicine can absorb better into the layers of the wart. It may take a few weeks for you to get rid of plantar warts using a salicylic acid solution, so be patient.
- Salicylic acid products sometimes contain dichloroacetic (or trichloroacetic) acid.
- Plantar warts usually grow on the heels or pads of the feet, the areas where they are most commonly stressed.
- The main feature of plantar warts is the black dots (which are commonly referred to as seed warts). These dots are actually blood clots in the vessels around the wart.
Step 3. Use apple cider vinegar
Apple cider vinegar has many medical benefits, one of which is being able to combat various types of warts. Apple cider vinegar contains high levels of acetic acid. This acid is antiviral and kills HPV/other viruses. However, acetic acid also irritates healthy tissue, so use caution when using it. Try soaking a cotton ball in vinegar and patting it on the wart, then wrap the wart with a bandage and leave it overnight. Change the plaster the next day. It may take a few days for the wart to improve.
- White vinegar is also made from acetic acid, but so far it doesn't seem to be as effective against warts as apple cider vinegar.
- Other natural antiviral properties that you can try at home include eucalyptus oil, oregano oil, and fresh garlic.
Step 4. Wrap the leg with tape
While there is no research to substantiate this claim, many wart sufferers report that regular duct tape applied (for a week or more) is an effective treatment, although how it works is still a mystery. However, because it is cheap, easy to do, and low risk, you can give it a try. Clean the soles of the feet with rubbing alcohol and apply tape over the warts. Leave it for 24 hours before you change the tape. Repeat this cycle for 2-6 weeks. This tape method can be used in conjunction with the natural antiviral agents mentioned above.
- Some people report that other non-porous tapes, such as electrical tape, are as effective as regular tape in treating plantar warts.
- Plantar warts occur in all age groups, although they most often affect children in the 12-16 year age range.
Part 2 of 3: Experimenting with Alternative Therapies
Step 1. Strengthen the body's immune system
Since plantar warts are a manifestation of an HPV attack, it means that your immune system is not strong enough (even if only temporarily) to fight them. So, strengthening the body's immunity is a logical and reasonable approach to get rid of plantar warts naturally. Visit a nutritionist, naturopath, traditional Chinese medicine expert, or chiropractor to find ways to boost immunity. Try to sleep longer (or better quality), eat more fresh vegetables and fruits, reduce sugar consumption (especially soft drinks), reduce alcohol consumption, stop smoking, and keep your body clean so that your immune system responds better.
- Supplements that can boost immunity include vitamins C and D, zinc, echinacea, and olive leaf extract.
- Risk factors for plantar warts include: routine trauma to the skin of the soles of the feet, use of public showers, and reduced immunity due to illness or drugs.
Step 2. Consider homeopathic treatments
Homeopathy is a solid approach that is useful for treating various symptoms and medical conditions in all age groups, based on consuming small amounts of plant components that will work effectively. You can schedule an appointment with a certified homeopath or buy over-the-counter pills and ointments at health supplement stores.
- Components commonly recommended for treating plantar warts include: thuja occidentalis pills, podophyllin ointment, natrum muriaticum pills, and nitricum acidum pills.
- Homeopathy is a type of alternative medicine invented in 1796, based on the doctrine of "like cures like" (using the same treatment that causes a symptom to treat a disease).
Step 3. Smoke the wart
As odd as it may sound, smoking is an ancient Chinese remedy for getting rid of plantar warts. This method uses a "smoke box" containing smoke from the burned leaves of Populus euphratica. Feet with warts are then put in this box. The smoke box method has been shown to be as effective as conventional medical therapies, such as cryotherapy. The Populous euphratica is a type of poplar tree that grows in various parts of the world, especially China and the Middle East. Burning the leaves produces smoke that is antiviral (salicylate).
- Look for or buy Populus euphratica leaves. Dry then burn in a controlled manner. Leave the leaves for a few minutes then cover them so that the fire is extinguished due to lack of oxygen. Place your feet in the air at a distance of about 15 cm from the burning leaves and allow the smoke to soak into your warty soles, for at least 15 minutes.
- Be careful not to burn the soles of the feet. Make sure the fire is completely out.
- Alternatively, you can try to collect the smoke in a closed box and then put your feet in it, for at least 15 minutes.
Part 3 of 3: Getting Medical Attention
Step 1. Consider cryotherapy
Cryotherapy (run by a family doctor, dermatologist, or podiatrist) destroys warts by freezing them in liquid nitrogen. This liquid nitrogen is sprayed directly or applied with a cotton swab. The liquid nitrogen causes the wart to blister, so it turns black and comes off a few days later. Cryotherapy may take several sessions to get rid of plantar warts. This therapy is usually not given to children because it causes pain. So your doctor may have to numb your palm area before applying liquid nitrogen.
- When done properly, cryotherapy will leave no scars. New skin will grow and fill the cavity left by the wart.
- Never try to apply liquid nitrogen to the skin on your own - you should only do this under a doctor's supervision. However, there are a variety of other "frozen" substances that are over-the-counter and can be used for home remedies.
Step 2. Consider a stronger exfoliating treatment
Prescription medications that contain salicylic acid will be more effective than over-the-counter medications. This is because salicylic acid is prepared more strongly. Your doctor or podiatrist will apply it to plantar warts in their office, but may then recommend that you do it yourself regularly at home. These medications will remove the wart layer little by little. Studies show that salicylic acid is more effective when combined with cryotherapy.
- Because prescription salicylic acid products are stronger, don't apply too much to the healthy skin surrounding the plantar wart, or you'll develop a rash and irritation.
- HPV reproduces in warm and humid areas. This is what causes him to choose sweaty or wet feet. Therefore, try to keep your feet dry at all times.
Step 3. Ask about other topical treatments
One common example is cantharidin. This substance is applied to plantar warts and is derived from many species of blister beetles. Cantharidin is a type of terpenoid - a toxic blister-causing substance - that will release warts. Cantharidin is usually used together with salicylic acid substances. Your doctor will apply a mixture of cantharidin and salicylic acid directly to the wart and cover it with a bandage for about a week. The wart will then blister and detach, although you may need to undergo several treatments to get rid of it completely.
- Cantharidin is harmful if swallowed and is not usually given to patients for home use.
- Blisters or sores on the skin caused by cantharidin generally heal without leaving a scar.
Step 4. Try laser treatment
Technological developments today have enabled doctors to use various types of lasers in their efforts to remove plantar warts. For example, pulsed-dye laser treatment. This method involves burning and destroying (or cutting) the tiny blood vessels that surround and nourish the skin. Thus, the wart will die and eventually fall off. Some lasers can also burn the wart off directly, although topical anesthesia is required.
- Laser therapy is usually expensive, although the evidence for its effectiveness in plantar warts is limited and not strong.
- Laser therapy may be painful and leave scars on the soles of the feet.
Step 5. Talk to your doctor about the possibility of having surgery
If home remedies, alternative therapies, and various other medical treatments fail to get rid of plantar warts, talk to your doctor about trying to get rid of them surgically. Wart surgery is a minor operation - the doctor will cut the wart with a scalpel or destroy it using an electric/ultrasonic device (called an electrodesiccation or curettage). Desiccation is the process of destroying wart tissue and curettage is the process of removing dead tissue using a small metal curette. The procedure is painful, so usually the patient is sedated.
- Wart surgery techniques generally leave scars. Warts can also grow back in the same wound tissue at a later date.
- Cutting the tissue around the plantar wart usually causes the wart to spread to other areas of the foot, especially for people with weak immune systems.
- To prevent plantar warts, never wear other people's shoes or boots.
- Avoid walking barefoot in public places, such as swimming pools and changing rooms.
- Warts are contagious, so avoid direct contact with people or other parts of your body.
- Protect your feet from injury and wash your hands frequently.
- Consider taking lots of vitamin A, at a dose of 30,000 U a day for one month/5 weeks.