Dear Lucy: I have a number of plantar warts that I have treated, unsuccessfully, with over-the-counter medications. Does MIT have a podiatry or wart clinic? What should I try next? —Sole Survivor
Dear Sole Survivor: Lucy has had some firsthand (or first foot?) experience with plantar warts, so she feels your pain. Or perhaps not pain as much as extreme irritation.
Plantar warts, which occur on the bottom of the foot, don’t usually hurt much, but they can be incredibly annoying. They are caused by a viral infection in the top layer of the skin. They don’t usually stick up above the skin as much as warts on the hand, because the pressure of walking has a flattening effect.
Since the skin is thick in these areas, they can be challenging to treat, says MIT Medical Dermatologist Allison Larson. Most warts will disappear on their own in about two years without treatment, she says, and if they are not bothersome, there’s no harm in leaving them alone. But a vexing plantar wart can be difficult to get rid of.
“Over-the-counter salicylic acid products can be successful,” Larson says, “but only after many months of consistent treatment.” But if over-the-counter treatments don’t seem to be working, she assures you that there are plenty of clinicians at MIT Medical who can help. “While we don’t have a podiatrist or a ‘wart clinic,’ MIT primary care providers (PCPs) and dermatologists frequently treat plantar warts,” she notes.
Clinicians have a variety of treatment methods at their disposal—everything from freezing the wart with liquid nitrogen to applying various topical treatments or injecting medications that may strengthen your immune system to fight the wart-causing virus. But even with a clinician involved, “it can take many months and numerous treatments to get rid of this pesky problem,” Larson warns.
Lucy’s advice? Call your PCP for an initial consultation. They will either come up with a treatment plan or give you a referral to our Dermatology Service
. Either way, you’ll be on your way to getting rid of those warts for good. —Lucy