Warts are a very common skin condition that affects the feet. Kids and teens are the most likely group to get warts but they can occur at any age. There is much confusion and folklore out there about what causes warts and how you can cure them. First of all, warts are not caused by frogs, toads or amphibians of any kind. Warts are caused by a virus, specifically the human papilloma virus. This microscopic virus enters the body through tiny cuts in the skin of the foot. Most of the time, our immune system destroys the virus and you never show any symptoms. Some times, the virus is not destroyed. It instead takes over skin cells and produces more and more virus.
A wart on the bottom, or plantar, part of the foot is called a plantar wart. This is not to be confused with the word planter. Make no mistake, warts are not related to or caused by any type of farming or gardening. Plantar warts are raised, have a rough surface and often contain small black dots. These black dots are actually blood vessels that have been taken over by the virus cells and have now grown so fast that they clot off. Because of this unique property warts can bleed easily if scratched or rubbed. Warts are sometimes painful and sometimes painless. It all depends on the thickness of the wart and the location. Skin on the bottom of the foot is very thick and makes treatment of warts difficult.
Medical science is not very good at killing viruses. This is why the common cold and HIV are so difficult to treat. The way warts are treated is by destroying the virus and the skin that it lives in. We do this in various ways. Sometimes freezing the skin is the treatment, other times it is through the use of chemicals such as acids. Either way the treatment of warts is a slow process that takes several weeks.
What if you never treat them? Well, there is a very complicated interplay of the virus and our immune system. Warts do just seemingly disappear on occasion. Why is this? This happens because the immune system can clear the virus by itself. This is very unpredictable and is the reason we treat warts to help speed the process up. This spontaneous healing of warts has lead people to believe that all manner of home remedy is actually responsible for the effect. I have heard of people putting soap under the mattress or burying a potato in the backyard to help with warts. I assure you, this does nothing to the virus, but the power of the mind is very strong.
I think of it like the Indian rain dance. Do you know how that worked? Well, they just kept on dancing until it rained. Hopefully it didn't rain frogs or else they all might have broken out with warts! Just kidding, see how these crazy stories are spread.
Commited to your health,
Dr. Craig Conti
Sarasota Foot Care Center