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Plantar Wart Removal

What are plantar warts?

Warts are localised thickenings of the skin, and the term ‘plantar warts’ is used for those that occur on the plantar surface of the feet. They are also known as verrucae pedis.

What causes plantar warts?

Warts are caused by an infection in the outer layer of the skin (epidermis) with the ‘human papilloma virus’ so-called HPV. There are many different strains of this virus triggering the skin to over-grow and thicken, leading to rapid, benign skin growth.

Plantar warts are caught by contact with infected skin scales. Many school kids who are enrolled in swimming classes get warts from the floors of public locker rooms or shower cubicles or areas around swimming pools. The virus enters the skin through tiny breaks in the skin surface.

What can happen if I ignore a plantar wart?

If you ignore a severe plantar wart or a mosaic wart, the following could happen:

  • Prolonged pain and discomfort, resulting in more serious treatment down the track.
  • Changes in posture or normal gait if a painful wart is changing how you stand, walk or run and is causing muscle or joint discomfort.
  • The virus could spread to other parts of the body, causing more warts to develop.
  • You could pass on the virus to other people, including friends and family.

Conservative treatment options

Silver Nitrate

  • Most gentle chemical application
  • The podiatrist would debride away wart tissue to expose blood supply and then apply silver nitrate to the wart tissue.
  • The debridement and chemical application cause tissue trauma in attempt to kick start the body’s immune system into action.
  • Silver nitrate can cause a grey staining of the skin which will eventually wear off.

Salicylic Acid

  • This chemical is typically formulated into a paste-like substance, which is applied to the lesion after debridement.
  • Similarly, to silver nitrate, the chemical reacts with the skin creating tissue trauma in an attempt to activate the body’s immune response.

Depending on the size of the wart and how long the infection has been present, you may require several treatments. We recommend these chemicals be applied every 1-2 weeks until resolved. In some cases, we may encourage you to apply an over-the-counter treatment in addition to these chemical treatments throughout your treatment period.


Cryotherapy is the technique where a freezing agent (usually liquid nitrogen) is applied directly to the wart. It’s a very quick treatment but the freezing sensation can cause discomfort and a blister may form after, which will resolve in the days following the treatment.

It may be tender to walk on following the procedure but in most cases, you require fewer treatments using this method versus the chemical treatments.

This treatment is usually repeated 2-4 weeks apart until resolved.

Surgical option

Surgical plantar wart removal

Curettage is a surgical procedure where the area around the wart is numbed by a local anaesthetic. The podiatrist then removes the wart tissue to expose healthy skin. Phenol chemical is then used to burn the wart tissue and silver nitrate is used to stem the bleeding.

During the first few days post-surgery, you will need to stay off the foot as much as possible, as it will be tender with weight-bearing. Within 1-2 weeks most people are walking normally and pain is significantly reduced/resolved.