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How the HPV Virus Can Affect Your Feet

Aug 08, 2023
You’ve likely heard about the dangers of HPV and cancer. However, HPV is more prevalent than you might think. And, yes, it can affect your feet. Learn more about HPV, what causes it, its symptoms, and how it’s treated.

Human papillomavirus (HPV) is a well-known skin infection with over 100 wart-causing strains. Some types of HPV cause genital warts, while others prefer to invade the skin of your face, fingers, toes, hands, or feet. Unfortunately, warts are also highly contagious.

Our board-certified podiatrists at Metroplex Foot & Ankle, LLP, specialize in diagnosing and treating a full scope of conditions that affect your feet and ankles. Whether you’re coping with an ankle sprain, bothersome bunions, or foot pain that slows you down, we can help.

We’re also skilled at treating warts that affect your feet. Check these facts from our team about foot-affecting HPV, including symptoms to watch out for and treatments that work.     

Understanding warts

Viral warts are caused by the human papillomavirus (HPV), which is easily spread through skin-to-skin contact or contact with a contaminated surface. The virus typically gains access via minor cuts or abrasions in the skin.

HPV primarily affects the skin and mucous membranes, causing excessive cellular growth that leads to warts in various locations on the body. Each type of HPV wart varies slightly in appearance and develops in different areas.

For instance, flat warts typically appear on the face and forehead, while common warts (the most frequent type) usually appear on the hands and fingers. Genital warts prefer moist mucous membranes, including those inside the mouth and throat.

HPV types that affect the feet include plantar warts, which occur on the sides or sole (plantar surface) of your foot. 

Mosaic warts also affect the feet, but are less common. This type appears as small, whitish, pinhead size bumps on the bottoms of the toes and balls of the feet.

The HPV type that causes foot warts thrives in warm, moist environments such as locker rooms, swimming pools, and communal showers, making these places prime locations for transmission — especially if you’re in the habit of walking around barefoot.

What are the symptoms of plantar warts?

A plantar wart can take weeks or even months to become visible as a small, grainy lesion with a rough texture. Plantar warts can be singular or occur in clusters, usually on the balls of the foot or heel.

Unlike warts on other parts of the body, plantar warts tend to grow inward, as the pressure from walking and standing forces them deeper into the skin. This can result in a hardened, callus-like formation over the wart, with much of the growth developing below the surface, somewhat akin to how an iceberg forms in cold ocean waters.

This characteristic can cause significant discomfort and pain while walking, standing, jumping, or running. It also makes plantar warts more challenging to treat.

The area around the plantar wart is also susceptible to bacterial infection, which may cause symptoms such as warmth, spreading redness, and foul drainage. These symptoms require prompt medical attention.  

How do you treat plantar warts?

Plantar warts typically resolve on their own, but it can take months. Over-the-counter therapies containing salicylic acid may help speed the process. However, you must never pick at or try to shave away a wart, since doing so can spread the virus or lead to bacterial overgrowth.

Our Metroplex Foot & Ankle, LLP, specialists consider various treatment options based on your evaluation results for large, painful, or recurrent plantar warts. Your strategy may include:

Prescription medications

We may recommend prescription-strength salicylic acid preparations, cantharidin (a blistering agent), or immunity-boosting creams like imiquimod to treat plantar warts that haven’t responded to milder over-the-counter therapies.


This treatment involves freezing the wart using liquid nitrogen, causing it to blister and eventually fall off.

Laser therapy

In more severe cases, we may recommend laser treatment to destroy the wart tissue.

Minor surgery  

If other treatments are ineffective, we may recommend surgical plantar wart removal.

Need help for a plantar wart?

Do you have a bothersome plantar wart? We can help. Schedule an evaluation at Metroplex Foot & Ankle, LLP, for more information about treating and preventing plantar warts. Call your nearest office in Dallas, Garland, or Richardson, Texas, today, or request an appointment online any time.