Plantar warts and palmar warts are common, especially in children. These warts are named for where they appear on the body. Palmar warts occur on the hands, and plantar warts on the bottom of the foot.
Virtually everyone will have a wart (or several) someplace at some time in their lives.
What Are Plantar Warts and Palmar Warts?
Plantar warts and palmar warts are noncancerous skin growths, caused by a viral infection in the top layer of the skin. The culprit is a strain of virus called human papillomavirus or HPV. Many strains of the virus exist, and those that cause common warts on the hands and feet are not the same strains of HPV that cause genital warts.
Some people mistakenly think plantar warts or palmar warts are malignant. In fact, they are not harmful. Eventually, in about two years, most warts go away without treatment. Warts can, however, cause irritation or minor pain, depending on their location.
What Do Plantar Warts and Palmar Warts Look Like?
On average plantar warts and palmar warts are small, about the size of a pencil eraser. But some warts grow bigger. Sometimes plantar warts can grow in clusters; those are called mosaic warts.
Sometimes corns or calluses are mistaken for a palmar or plantar wart. In some warts, little black dots appear, leading people to call them "seed" warts. Actually the black dots are little blood vessels that have grown up into the wart. Warts don’t really have “seeds.”
Plantar warts usually don't stick up above the skin as much as warts on the hand, partly because of the pressure of walking and its flattening effect.
How Do You Get a Plantar Wart or Palmar Wart?
Warts are spread from person to person. The transmission can be indirect. For instance, a child with a wart on their hand may touch a playground surface that is then touched by another child and the wart spreads. Or a person with a plantar wart uses a shower without wearing shower shoes and another person then uses it and develops a wart. The risk of getting a hand or foot wart from another person is small.
A person's risk of getting a wart varies. Those with a weakened immune system are more susceptible. But those with healthy immune systems can also develop warts.
What Are Treatments for Plantar Warts and Palmar Warts?
Plantar warts and palmar warts will often eventually go away without treatment. If they bother you, however, you can treat common skin warts in a variety of ways.
- Duct tape is one home remedy. Put a small strip over the wart and leave it on for six days. Then, remove the tape, soak the wart in water, and then gently debride it with a pumice stone or emory board. Repeat the process many times until the wart is gone. This may take a couple of months. Don’t expect miracles with this type of treatment since it probably does not work any better than a placebo.
- Over-the-counter wart treatments include a medication that is applied topically (gel, ointment, lotion) and usually includes salicylic acid which works by peeling the wart. Another option is a freezing spray that kills the tissue. These remedies work about 50% of the time.
- Doctor's treatments are generally more effective. They include freezing the wart off with liquid nitrogen, removing the wart with laser or surgery, or applying or injecting medicines to strengthen the immune system so it can clear your body of the virus.
Treatment, however, is not fast and easy. Home treatment for hand warts, for instance, can take a few weeks up to a few months. Foot warts are challenging to treat because most of the wart lies below the skin surface.
Even if a treatment is successful, the wart can reappear.
If a wart is not bothersome, doctors say it can be left alone. Given time, the wart may disappear on its own, thanks to the immune system.