Diagnosis of Plantar Warts

Most plantar warts are diagnosed based on their appearance. In some cases, the podiatrist scrapes a sample of skin cells from the wart and sends the sample to a pathologist for microscopic evaluation.

Plantar Warts Treatment

Over-the-counter medications contain chemicals that destroy skin cells (e.g., acid) and may damage healthy tissue surrounding the wart and contribute to spreading. Self-treatment for plantar warts using an over-the-counter preparation is not recommended.

In some cases, podiatrists apply mild acid (e.g., salicylic acid, cantharidin, dichloroacetic acid) topically to treat plantar warts. This treatment, which often requires multiple applications over the course of several weeks, disintegrates viral cells and allows healthy skin cells to replace them.

Laser treatments (e.g., CO2 laser) can be used to treat plantar warts. Laser treatment is performed in a podiatrist's office or an outpatient surgery facility using local anesthesia. Lasers produce little scarring and are effective in most cases.

Cryotherapy involves freezing warts with a very cold solution (e.g., sodium nitride) that destroys the virus and causes the wart to turn black and fall off within a few days. This treatment is ineffective in some cases when the solution does not penetrate far enough to completely destroy the virus.

Surgical removal (called curettage) is a common procedure performed in a podiatrist's office under local anesthesia. Generally, this procedure is used to remove isolated warts, areas not greater than 1–2 cm, or several small warts in a limited area (mosaic patches). Surgical curettage can be combined with other treatments, as necessary.

Publication Review By: J. Michael Lunsford, D.P.M.

Published: 31 Dec 1999

Last Modified: 01 Oct 2015