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December 1, 2005 12:03 PM   Subscribe

Help me! I'm warty!

I have had a plantar's wart on the outer ball of my foot for years. It's not too large (about the size of a pencil eraser) and not too painful, although it does hurt if I don't regularly treat it/trim the dead skin. It's not ruining my life, but I have dealt with it for years and would like it to be gone. I have tried most drugstore cures and they're not strong enough. I know I could go to the doctor and have them try burning it off, but that will be a last resort. I'm a running and fitness freak, and I've heard the downtime can be quite lengthy after that procedure. Also, I've heard that they frequently come back after this treatment.

Googling brings up a million different "home remedies" for treating plantar's warts, but I'm looking for your experiences. What has worked? (I have tried duct tape, but I can never get it to stay on properly, it always comes unstuck within a few hours.) In the past few months, I have developed two other warts on my foot between my toes, as well as one on my thumb. What is going on? Why am I warty? Please make them go away, AskMe!
posted by Bella Sebastian to Health & Fitness (19 answers total) 2 users marked this as a favorite
Have you tried putting a bandage on top of the duct/duck tape?

Running around in hot sand/asphalt barefoot has helped a friend of mine, but I guess since it's on the outer ball that won't do any good.

AFAIK, burning it off with liquid nitrogen isn't typically associated with a prolongued recovery period.
posted by PurplePorpoise at 12:07 PM on December 1, 2005

PP's right, there's no long downtime after liquid nitrogen. If normal stuff hasn't worked, go with the nitro. It stings like hell at the time, but the recovery period is basically nonexistent. You just have some lingering pain for a few hours after you leave the doctor. It's true that you may have to go back, maybe even more than once, if it's a persistent bastard, but it shouldn't interfere with your running. I used to have warts on my fingers back in the day and I had unimpeded use of my hands within a few minutes of the nitro (with a little soreness that faded in a few hours).

If you really want to hold off on that, get some Compound W at the grocery store, apply it, and put a Band-Aid over it overnight. Dig off the dead skin and repeat a few nights until it's gone. Just scraping the dead skin off the top isn't enough, you have to keep making progress and eventually have a mini-crater where it was for it to really be gone. That's painful too, and definitely less effective, which is why I'd take the nitro.
posted by TunnelArmr at 12:14 PM on December 1, 2005

I've always had plenty of warts because, as a lifeguard at an indoor pool, I'm always walking around on wet deck. The ONLY effective treatment is going in to see your doctor (preferably a dermatologist).

I actually just had one burned off with liquid nitrogen yesterday, and although it hurt like the devil for the rest of the day (this one was the biggest I've ever had), the pain was gone by this morning.

As far as why they're spreading, warts are caused by a virus and thus can either spread internally or externally. The others on your foot were likely transmitted through your body, the one on your thumb likely from trying to treat the first one. Thus, it is important to always wash your hands well after touching anywhere near a wart.

My advice: go see the doctor, get them ALL burned off, and you'll be 100% and wart-free in a day or two.
posted by awesomebrad at 12:21 PM on December 1, 2005

My experience with going to the doctor for wart removal -- she scraped at the skin on top with a blade, sort of hashing it up and then scraping it down. Then she pressed a little applicator of liquid nitrogen onto the skin. ...And that was it. The entire process took six or seven minutes. It was very, very simple, and it did not hurt.

She told me that if the wart returned, it would be perfectly fine for me to scrape down the wart myself with a razor blade (ahem, a clean/fresh one) and then apply Compound W, and if that didn't work, to come in again. Luckily, it never came back.
posted by Marit at 12:42 PM on December 1, 2005

There are home wart freezing kits available that work really well. I used one for my daughter's plantar warts (she was 4) and although it stung a bit, she had no problem walking on it and it fixed the problem much better than the various saylic acid treatments we tried.
posted by GuyZero at 12:54 PM on December 1, 2005

I don't know if the data has changed, but as of 2003 duct tape was more effective than cryotherapy for warts.
posted by lowlife at 12:56 PM on December 1, 2005

I've had warts on my hands before, and having them trimmed down to live skin and frozen with liquid nitrogen was always the best thing for me. If your doctor doesn't, ask them to wait a minute or so for the skin to warm up, then freeze it again. That's the only thing that's always prevented them from growing back for me.

I've never had any on my feet, but my dad had one for years. He must have had it frozen five times, and he finally had to have a doctor cut it out with a scalpel. I can pretty much guarantee you that no home remedies or OTC medication are going to work on a wart that well established, you're going to have to see a doctor.
posted by borkingchikapa at 12:57 PM on December 1, 2005

I had a plantar wart on my foot (right instep) that had to be burned out (not "off" -- "out") since it went so deep. I was about 14 at the time, and both my Mum and the doctor's assistant had to sit on me while he put the local anaesthetic into the bottom of my foot. Ever had a needle in the bottom of your foot? Hurts like nothing else on the planet.

Anyhoo, after the application of something that looked like a really rather nasty soldering iron, I had a hole in the bottom of my foot about 1/2 inch deep that got packed with sterile gauze and a bandage; daily cleanings and repackings for a couple of weeks and it was fine again.

I dimly remember it being sore for a few days; after that, back to normal though I wasn't a runner at the time.

It never came back.

I do have other warts (once you've got the wart virus, you have it forever), but they're tiny and they grow old and drop off by themselves usually after a year or so.

So, from my PoV, unless there's a good reason why having this thing is causing you problems, I'd go with one of the less invasive procedures.
posted by 5MeoCMP at 1:00 PM on December 1, 2005

duct tape therapy is supposed to work better than freezing.
posted by I Love Tacos at 1:01 PM on December 1, 2005

(continued from accidentally posted above)

I used medical tape to get the duct tape to stay firmly affixed, last time I had a wart.
posted by I Love Tacos at 1:03 PM on December 1, 2005

Response by poster: Thanks, all. I guess the long recovery time anecdotes I've heard were definitely abnormal experiences. I may give duct tape one more shot, and visit the (gulp) doctor if that still fails...
posted by Bella Sebastian at 1:38 PM on December 1, 2005

I never got the freeze treatment despite having 30-40 warts per foot a few years back (I was out of work, under stress and no insurance). The doctor gave me a formaldahyde soak and very strong sal acid paste and with work, most of them were gone within the month.

I had one left, got negligent and within a couple of years, had eight or nine again- but just on one foot. Surprisingly, after a pedicure (complete with the foot shaver thing), I noticed that the little black heads were surfacing on each wart so I went to work with an over the counter acid and after three weeks, I was wart free and have been for four years.

My ped guy suggested the freeze treatment but I was really scared of it -- guess I should have gone and done it as I would have saved myself years of pain.
posted by jaimystery at 1:57 PM on December 1, 2005

I've been struggling with plantar warts for years. Mine show up on the balls of my feet, the worst possible location. Curiously, no doctor's ever offered to do the liquid nitrogen treatment on me, (though friends have had success). Instead, my MD did something with an acid,which was followed by his digging out the wart. This wasn't at all effective, so I went to a podiatrist. He'd be happy trimming them with a scalpel every few months, but I'd rather not pay (and he refused to teach me his trimming technique, nor give me a scalpel.) So he elevated my treatment to the next phase: Laser surgery. This was cool, using a CO2 laser to burn away the effected epidermis. The unfortunate side effect is walking on an open wound for the month or two it takes to heal. This worked for all but the most persistent -- for that one, he went all the way, with an unapproved, experimental technique involving an anti-cancer drug called bleomyacin -- just an injection into the wart, but since it's experimental, insurance wouldn't pay for the $300 dose. This eventually worked, although it took longer than the doc expected.

That was a couple years ago, and since then, another has returned. I tried the duct tape treatment recently, for two months (also worried that it would come off, but had no trouble -- but I'd refresh it every couple days) and I could tell it was weakening the thing (because it turned white, and smelled dead) but it came back once I stopped applying the tape.

But now, I've acquired a scalpel, and so do the occasional trim myself.
posted by Rash at 2:11 PM on December 1, 2005

Since nobody has explicitly stated this: plantar's warts differ from other run-of-the-mill warts in that they go very deep. Treating them at the skin level (duct tape, drugstore treatments, etc.) just doesn't go deep enough. My wife has a couple, and her dermatologist cuts them out whenever they get unbearable. Not a pleasant experience for my wife, but for her, a few days of uncomfortable recovery are better than the long-term pain of the wart itself.
posted by tippiedog at 2:24 PM on December 1, 2005

I've used compound W to get out a 2+ year old wart that composed about %25 of the mass of my big toe (wrapping from the bottom to the front end). It took a week of applying it and scraping off the surface, and it hurt like hell to walk on, but it was gone for good. The pain lasted ~1 more week, and I was able to to do sports (volleyball) the whole time, with occasional grimmacing.

The crater that was left was nothing short of astounding, and I can't believe that I grew back a perfectly normal toe afterwards. Don't leave them that long, mmmkay?
posted by Four Flavors at 3:22 PM on December 1, 2005

I had good luck getting rid of my a foot wart applying pure vitamin E oil and scraping the top off twice a day.
posted by fshgrl at 6:17 PM on December 1, 2005

When I had plantar warts as a kid, I went to the doctor, who froze 'em off with dry ice. I could walk right after the procedure, and the spot was a little sore for maybe a day or two afterward.

When my brother went through his warty phase a few years later, the doctor used blister beetle juice on them. I was totally jealous -- not because he had less pain during or afterward (although he did), but because he got something with such a cool name and history (the juice! of squished beetles!) whereas I'd only had boring dry ice.

YMMV, especially your opinion of squished beetles on your feet.
posted by booksandlibretti at 8:49 PM on December 1, 2005

Freezing is really pretty trivial; don't be scared of it. Duct tape didn't work for my non-plantar wart. The newfangled over-the-counter freezing devices appear *very* similar to the office procedure, though I have no hard evidence. If you feel the need, use repeated small applications instead of one longer application--you only want to damage the wart, not surrounding tissue.
posted by trevyn at 9:23 PM on December 1, 2005

There is a treatment therapy that is called Canthacur. It is made from the the blister beetle. I went to a dermatologist, he put a little bit on the wart on the sole of my foot and in about 2 days it had completely bubbled up and fallen off. New skin grew after the wart fell off and it was healed up in about a week. The pain was minimal and hardly noticeable. I had actually researched this on the web since I didn't want to have it cut out. When I got to the doctor, I just asked about it and he was copasetic to my request.
I have also had plantar warts surgically removed. Warts are tricky things. Once you have the wart virus in your body, it is there for life and you can develop more warts. The only real "cure" for warts is to remove them and there are various ways. Each dermatologist seems to have his/her favorite methods. But don't be afraid to ask about methods you want to use. But you need to remove them, if not for cosmetic reasons, just because plantar warts hurt and they'll just get bigger.
There is also some anecdotal evidence that keeping healthy and having a good immune system can keep warts from developing, for what it's worth.
posted by FergieBelle at 8:23 AM on December 4, 2005

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