How to get rid of plantar warts
June 7, 2005 2:24 PM   Subscribe

Mildly embarrassing dermatology filter.

I'm in need of advice and anecdotal remedies for Plantar Warts. Recently, I've come to play host to a number of plantar warts. These small round little relatives of HPV reside on the sole (or plantar surface) of my left foot. My doctor treated them with a somewhat painful does of liquid nitrogen (intended to freeze the wart and its circulatory system). Great. After a bit of pain, they seemed to fade and I thought I was done.

Alas, alack, my little friends have returned. When i spoke with my doctor, she indicated that they sometimes do return. My options, according to her, are to re-freeze them or I could apply duct tape to the affected areas (they don't understand the how, but apparently duct tape has proven effective) until the warts "fall out."

Recommendations, experience, and anecdotal remedies are all appreciated.
posted by Verdant to Health & Fitness (29 answers total) 4 users marked this as a favorite
I fought a 3-round freeze battle with plantar warts a couple of years ago. I was getting sick of going back to the doctor by the third freeze, but that one did the job. So here's one datapoint in favor of multiple freezes.
posted by COBRA! at 2:29 PM on June 7, 2005

My brother did the duct tape method and it worked fine -- took about a month. The ductape stays on well on the sole of the foot and was not irritating in any way. Worth a try maybe?

I had mine frozen off when a kid, and it only took one freeze, but it hurt like hell.
posted by Rumple at 2:36 PM on June 7, 2005

Yep, I had a bout 5+ years ago that went into complete remission after 3-4 freezings. I don't remember it as being particularly painful, and if anything, it was the scalpel scraping off skin before/after that hurt, not the nitrogen. Maybe have someone else with a different technique administer treatment?

Hadn't heard of duct tape, interesting...
posted by trevyn at 2:44 PM on June 7, 2005

You want to asphyxiate the little guy, so, yes, duct tape your foot or use first aid type plastic tape. Wear cotton socks and shower with a bag over your foot -- or keep one foot out of the water.

I had a plantar's wart when I was a kid and freezing didn't work, so the doctor did the suffocating tape routine. The dead wart really does pop out -- looks kind of like a little acorn, and you end up with a dent in your foot. Weird.
posted by mollykiely at 2:47 PM on June 7, 2005

Oh, also, they are contagious, and it's possible you could be re-infecting yourself. Clean the shower, don't walk around barefoot, etc.

Does laser wart removal (burning) work for plantars too?
posted by trevyn at 2:48 PM on June 7, 2005

a product by the name of "duofilm" worked really well for me. it's an otc liquid specifically for plantar warts. it might take up to three weeks to finally rid yourself of them, so be patient. also, be cautious when using towels, etc. don't use the same towel you do on the infected foot as the uninfected one.
posted by esuveesarenotcars at 2:54 PM on June 7, 2005

I dunno how, but the duct tape method def. works. Try not to cover too much of the rest of your foot with it, though - I had a wart on my finger, so I wrapped a ring of duct tape around it, covering the wart. When I pulled off the duct tape, I had killed quite a bit of skin on the rest of my finger.
posted by muddgirl at 3:11 PM on June 7, 2005

I had one a long time ago, and I used some kind of adhesive felt thingy that was saturated with salicylic acid. (Like a medicated moleskin, I guess.)

I don't remember the name or brand, but it worked pretty well. I cut a piece to size, kept it on for a couple of weeks or so, replacing it occasionally, and then the wart eventually fell out in one piece, like mollykiely's. Left a little hole in my foot, but it healed up pretty quickly. (That was a single, big wart, though, so the approach may not work for your situation.)
posted by LairBob at 3:12 PM on June 7, 2005

Why not surgical removal? It's outpatient, quick, less post-procedure pain than freezing (in my opinion). It's more expensive, but hey, that's what insurance is for.
posted by Merdryn at 3:23 PM on June 7, 2005

I hadn't heard the duct tape thing, but after two unsuccessful freezings and an unsuccessful application of some juice derived from a beetle, my doctor quietly mentioned that some people had found success in taping a piece of banana peel to the wart each day.

It worked. You just eat a banana, cut a wart-sized piece out of the peel, and tape it gooey-side in to the wart with a large quantity of medical tape. It feels gross. It smells gross and is all sludgy and brown by the end of the day. But it worked.

And now I learn that the tape alone might have worked without the banana. I wonder if my doctor just made that part up and is still laughing his head off.
posted by climalene at 3:45 PM on June 7, 2005

Avoid surgery. You will often trade a painful scar for the original wart. Any destruction method will never eradicate the viral presence in the tissue. For some reason, many cases go silent after visible elimination/destruction.

Duct tape may work by occlusive means as well as by creating a local inflammatory reaction and in turn triggering an immune reaction and subsequent destruction of the wart (warts, for some reason, seem to be able to cloak themselves from the surrounding local lymphocytes).

I often treat these with monthly freeze treatments, and counsel the patient in between to pumice the wart and apply compound-w under an occlusive (duct tape) as they wish.
posted by docpops at 3:45 PM on June 7, 2005

I'd heard about the duct tape thing, but didn't realize it was about suffocation. For some reason I was under the mistaken assumption it was about sticky... It actually works though?

I've had mine for longer than I care to admit. Nothing OTC (salicylic acid liquids, fancy foot pads, or "freeze away") worked, no matter how long I stuck with it. Each removed a good deal of healthy skin, but the warts survived just fine. I'm guessing if yours resisted liquid nitrogen they're going to resist otc salicylic acid...
posted by sarahmelah at 3:46 PM on June 7, 2005

I spent years going to have the same damn wart frozen, then heard that rubbing banana peel on it daily would make the thing disappear. Worked ina bout a month.
posted by notsnot at 3:48 PM on June 7, 2005

Ah, excellent, notsnot -- you have cleared my doctor's good name.

'Course, I forgot Google.
posted by climalene at 3:58 PM on June 7, 2005

Oh man. I had one a few years back, but I am more a fan of self-treatment. Long story short, I dug it out of my foot. It bled quite a bit; YMMV.
posted by jenovus at 4:44 PM on June 7, 2005

I did the same as LairBob, without surgery or freezing. Worked like a charm.
posted by samh23 at 5:53 PM on June 7, 2005

Another vote for duct tape. My husband used this in combo with formaldehyde and zinc pills and they were gone in a few weeks. He had them 'frozen' by a doctor a few times at first with lotsa pain and little or no effect.
posted by kelrae3 at 6:21 PM on June 7, 2005

Thanks Ask MeFi. I'm off to buy some Duct Tape.
posted by FlamingBore at 6:27 PM on June 7, 2005

My other half was plagued with warts on his foot for a while and the duct tape method (see here - he did it exactly as the article describes it) worked great for him.

When I was a kid I actually used your method once jenovus - I used a tweezers though. And yes, it hurt like hell, and I wasn't allowed swim for ages.
posted by dublinemma at 7:16 PM on June 7, 2005

Go in for another freezing.
I know a guy who had to get warts nitro-ed off of his, um... male member. Twice.

Think about that kind of pain and your foot procedure might seem less painful...
posted by Jon-o at 7:24 PM on June 7, 2005

I had mine frozen off in two treatments. A few years ago.

My ex-girlfriend spent months using OTC salicylic acid and pumice to rub the calloused skin away.

My way was much, much faster, easier and less painful.
posted by LouMac at 9:03 PM on June 7, 2005

few years ago i was getting warts on my fingers and feet. Nitro tended to be more effective than OTC remedies and in number of occasion I would heat up a butter knife on the stove and press on the wart. Hurt like hell, but tended to work. But I would not recommend it to anybody. It tends to leave scars and probably can cause infections from the resulting blister. Actually the visible effect is same as the nitro. I never heard about the duct tape therapy before. Since those days I avoid walking around gym locker room barefoot.
posted by flyby22 at 9:12 PM on June 7, 2005

If the duct tape doesn't work, one thing that seems to be oddly effective is getting frequent exposure to chlorinated water. I don't guarantee that this will be a solution, but it seemed to correllate with wart reduction when it happened to me. You can try it in addition to your normal method of getting rid of them, I guess.
posted by invitapriore at 9:27 PM on June 7, 2005

I've had a few outbreaks of plantar warts so far. The first time I had surgical removal, as there were only two. This hurt like a bitch and kept me from walking normally for several days. Based on my experience, I would not recommend this.

The second time I had them frozen. This hurt too, but not as much. After a few treatments, they went away. Third time I tried salicylic acid for awhile, but wound up having them frozen again.

My sister got a single plantar wart a couple years ago, and she took the duct tape route. Didn't hurt at all, and it fell out after about a month. Very cool, and the route I will certainly take should they reoccur.

And they will reoccur. I'm under the impression that plantar warts, like cold sores, are viral and that once you've got it, you've got it for life.
posted by schustafa at 6:43 AM on June 8, 2005

Recent study found that duct tape was slightly (but not significantly) more successful in removing warts than liquid nitrogen. For the same success rate, duct tape certainly costs less, and you can do it at home. Too lazy to google the study right now, but it's out there...
posted by caution live frogs at 7:37 AM on June 8, 2005

Point of reference: I've tried the duct tape method a couple times, with zero success. It seemed to leave the wart perfectly healthy, but killed off all the skin around it -- leaving a crater of stinky, necrotic tissue surrounding a thriving, painful little wart. Yum.

Eventually I gave up and used an over-the-counter freezing product -- took a few tries, and I had to exceed the recommended freezing time on the package by a factor of ten or so, but it worked with a lot less fuss and mess and hassle than the duct tape did. No real pain, just a dull ache for a day or so after it thawed out.
posted by ook at 7:39 AM on June 8, 2005

I went to the doctor with mine. The old GP did this thing where he injected them (or the area around them) with some acid which was supposed to make 'em drop out. Not very effective. So I went to a podiatrist and he's method was outpatient surgery, involving burning out the wart tissue with a CO2 laser. The post-surgery healing process took a month -- a month of being unable to walk without excruciating pain. When the more persistant warts returned, he tried a more aggresive treatment, which my insurance wouldn't cover, since it's considered experimental: injecting the warts with an anti-cancer drug called Bliomyacine. This cured the worst offender, but when the next-to-worst came back, I stopped bothering with this radical stuff, and just did what the podiatrist does to anybody walking in with plantar warts: using a scalpal, he slices off the part of the wart sticking out, greatly reducing the pressure on the wart its host causes by walking. Lacking a scalpal, I use abrasives, like emory boards... but after reading the above, I may give the duct tape a try.
posted by Rash at 10:09 AM on June 8, 2005

Freezing did not help mine, they kept coming back. I got rid of mine accidentally by brusing the bejesus out of that area when the screw of my cleat popped through the sole of my cheap-ass shoe as I stepped on a [un]fortunately placed rock. I could barely walk and that whole area turned dark purple but after a week they just sloughed off like dead skin. Haven't come back since, either.
posted by Fezboy! at 10:33 AM on June 8, 2005

I had a wart on the outside edge of one foot over 10 years ago. Repeated freezing attempts by my dermatologist didn't make a difference, home use of Compound W didn't budge it. I didn't try duct tape, but I did use adhesive tape on its own without much improvement.

My dermatologist was also my employer, and he was getting tired of my whining, so he gave me a scalpel to take home. I attacked the dead skin on the periphery with the scalpel and the pointy file thing from a pair of nail clippers. As long as it didn't hurt, I dug into the little sucker with my sharp tools. Then I painted it with Compound W and covered it with standard white adhesive tape.

It cleared up within a few weeks and has never come back. In retrospect, if I had covered it with duct tape for a few weeks when it first appeared, all the rest wouldn't have been necessary. But that sucker got HUGE and needed to be pared back and made defenseless via salicylic acid and oxygen deprivation. It was gross, but it was also an oddly satisfying thing to do.
posted by maudlin at 12:06 PM on June 8, 2005

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