Warts of the foot and leg

Verruca vulgaris!
That sounds like a spell cast by Harry Potter, or a witch’s curse! This horrible- sounding phrase is the medical term for the common wart ( verruca is the Latin term for wart, and vulgaris means common). The term is used to describe warts on any part of the body, while those of the sole of the foot, so-called plantar warts, are called verruca plantaris.

Warts are benign skin lesions caused by a virus. The wart virus is everywhere in the environment, and is even thought to be part of the normal flora of our skin (along with many other viruses, fungi, and bacteria-Gross!). It is thought that the wart virus enters small cracks or wounds of the skin and start a wart lesion. Warts can spread from person to person by direct contact such as shearing shoes.

Conservative or nonsurgical treatment of warts is often effective and is generally tried initially before any surgical intervention. Conservative treatment can consist of paring down the outer callus layer and applying a medication to kill the virus. Sometimes a compounded prescription medication can be used daily by the patient to kill the virus.

Other interesting conservative treatments include oral cimetidine (a stomach medication), and therapeutic ultrasound. Cimetidine is thought to somehow stimulate immune system to fight off the wart virus. It is more effective in children that in adults. Another older treatment is the application of therapeutic ultrasound, which can kill off the virus.

Invasive treatments, all of which require local anesthesia, include cryotherapy (freezing), hyfrecation (burning), needling (an interesting and effective procedure in which the wart is pulverized with small needle punctures), and surgical removal.

It must be mentioned that, while sometimes painful, warts are a benign condition and treatment should be as non-aggressive as possible. Indeed, one study found that, if untreated, the average verruca vulgaris disappears in 1 ½ years and the average verruca plantaris disappears in 2 ½ years, presumably due to the virus dying off. This may explain historical success of folk remedies in the treatment of warts, as the wart may have actually disappeared naturally.

In summary, don’t ignore a wart! The physicians of Melbourne Podiatry Associates treat all warts below the knee. Call for your appointment!

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