HPV, Warts, and Your Feet

Mar 9, 2021

We have talked about plantar warts several times recently (you can check out this blog and our treatment page, if you’re interested). One thing we haven’t gone into much detail about, though, is the virus that causes them. 

The human papillomavirus, usually shortened to just HPV, can affect more than just your feet. There is certainly more to it than just the development of plantar warts, too, and we regularly receive questions from concerned patients when plantar warts are in the picture.

We will be answering several of those questions here, but please never hesitate to ask us any additional questions you may have. We always want to ensure our patients have all the information they need to make healthy decisions and have peace of mind.

What is HPV?

Human papillomavirus is a very common virus. It is so common, in fact, that nearly every one of us will have an HPV infection at some point in our lives.

HPV is also diverse. More than 100 different types of HPV are known. This diversity, however, is where some confusion and unnecessary worries can occur.

Are Warts on Other Areas of the Body Also Caused by HPV?

Most often, yes. HPV is not only the frequent cause of warts on the feet, but also tends to be responsible for warts on the hands, the face, and other areas of the skin.

You may have heard HPV used in connection with genital warts as well. While it is true that an HPV infection does cause this condition, a very important distinction must be made. 

Only certain strains of HPV cause certain types of warts. The strains of HPV that cause warts on the feet are not the same strains that cause genital warts. They may belong to the same family, but they are not identical. One will not cause the same type of warts as the other.

close up of a group of plantar warts on a foot

Can HPV Infections Cause Cancer?

While the vast majority of HPV infections will not become cancerous and will go away on their own sometime within 2 years, some strains may cause cancer. 

According to the CDC, about 36,000 cases of cancer per year occur due to HPV infections in the United States. It is now recommended that children receive an HPV vaccination to reduce this risk.

But once again, the strain of HPV is a major factor. Only certain kinds pose significant cancer risks.

Does Having Plantar Warts Increase My Risk of Cancer?

The strains of HPV that cause warts on the feet are considered low risk, and having a case develop into cancer would be exceedingly rare.

That said, the potential for plantar warts leading to cancer – while remote – is still not impossible. You have extremely little reason to worry, but plantar warts that do not respond to treatment and continue to grow or shift in shape should be further examined to check for cancerous cells.

Is HPV Contagious?

Yes, it is. The strains of HPV that can cause plantar warts can spread not only through direct, skin-to-skin contact, but can also exist for some time on surfaces to be picked up by others. 

The virus tends to thrive especially well in environments that are warm and damp. This is what makes places such as gyms, locker rooms, and public pools such high-risk areas for contracting plantar warts. There is already so much barefoot traffic, and the conditions tend to be ideal for the virus.

Given that plantar warts can be contagious, it does pay to be careful with how you may expose yourself and others to them. Always try to avoid touching your warts whenever possible, and wash your hands as soon as possible afterward if you have to. Also, nobody else should be wearing your shoes or directly touching your feet, either. 

But that said, you usually do not have to be careful to the point of fully sanitizing your house every day. We are happy to discuss your specific situation and recommend any preventative actions you should take.

How Long Does it Take for Symptoms of a Plantar Wart Infection to Appear?

The incubation period for HPV can range over a period of months. Add to that the fact that the initial symptoms on the feet (e.g. the rough, grainy patches and bumps common with plantar warts) can often go unnoticed for a while if they are not causing you any discomfort, and it can be especially challenging to determine when exactly the infection was picked up.

Fortunately, knowing exactly how long you have had plantar warts isn’t very important. What does matter is when you start treating them! The sooner you begin an effective treatment plan, the less opportunity the virus will have to spread and become more established beneath your skin.

Our Swift plantar wart treatment is designed to stimulate your immune system and guide it toward the virus itself. Once it recognizes that an invader is in its midst, it will start the attack – and your plantar warts should start clearing up!

An added benefit of an immunity-focused treatment such as Swift is that it trains your immune system to better recognize the virus if it returns, decreasing your chances of warts coming back in the future.

Learn more about Swift therapy on our warts treatment page, and don’t hesitate to reach out to us if you have further questions or wish to make an appointment. 

Call either of our two area offices to schedule an appointment:

You can also reach us electronically by filling out our online contact form, if you wish.

    Princeton Office