One of the most widely accepted (yet still false) myths is that witches have more warts than non-witches. This is simply not the case. There are plenty of otherwise stereotypical broomstick-flying female magic-workers that have very nice skin indeed.
The truth is that you don’t need to be a witch to get warts. And you certainly don’t get warts from flying around on a broomstick (although you may be apt to get splinters in rather tender parts of your anatomy). Warts are actually caused by the human papilloma virus (or HPV for short). This virus can create warts anywhere on the body (and no, witches aren’t more inclined to get them on their nose or chin), although the area of focus for this article is, naturally, the feet. Warts that form on the bottom of the feet (the plantar surface) are called plantar warts. Which is sort of a no-brainer, really.
Warts are contagious, although not extremely so. Skin that has sloughed off of a wart, or blood from a wart will contain the virus, so coming in contact with such bodily detritus may spread the virus to you. Common areas of infection (since the virus tends to like warm, moist environments) are public showers, lockers, and swimming pools. Sharing shoes or socks with another person who has warts can also lead to an outbreak (and is, admit it, a little gross). You can also spread warts from one part of your body to another by touching or scratching at a wart, then touching another body part. The virus then usually enters the skin through small cuts. (And just so you know, muttering “Double, double toil and trouble,” probably won’t cause warts. Unless you do it while standing in a public shower.)
People with sweaty feet tend to create ideal environments for the HPV, and thus may be more susceptible to developing warts. Children, adolescents and the elderly are also more likely to get warts than other groups of people. And some people are actually immune to the virus. They don’t get warts at all, the lucky folks.
Plantar warts are often mistaken for calluses (and vise versa) because they can look similar. Warts are sometimes covered or surrounded by thickened skin, which may make you think you’ve got a callus or corn rather than a wart. However, unlike calluses, warts tend to be painful if you squeeze them from the sides, while calluses tend to be painful when you press on them directly. Warts also often contain little black dots (which, contrary to popular belief, are not wart seeds but clotted blood in small blood vessels). Also unlike calluses, if shaved down, warts tend to exhibit pinpoint bleeding where the black dots are.
Warts are usually fairly well defined, and may look like small grainy or fleshy bumps on the underside of your foot, or might be hard and flat. They may vary somewhat in color, but are usually brown or gray. Because there’s so much pressure on the bottom of your feet, plantar warts may grow up into the skin rather than create a prominent bump on top of it. However, they won’t grow outside of the skin layers and into your bones. The virus is definitely just an epidermis dweller.
Over time, your wart may grow larger and spread, creating mosaic warts (basically a cluster of warts). The more warts you have, the harder they may be to treat. And, the more pain you may experience while standing, walking or running.
While rare, it’s possible that a growth on your foot may be cancerous. So, even if you think your bump is a benign wart, it’s probably best to get it checked out by your podiatrist. He or she can suggest various treatment methods if it is a wart, and if it’s a malignant growth, you can get treatment started quickly.
Your foot doctor will probably get a history of your warts, asking how long you’ve had them, what you’ve done so far to treat them, whether your warts are causing you any pain, and if you’ve noticed any changes in your warts recently. (Your podiatrist shouldn’t ask how long you’ve been practicing the dark arts, or if you have a good potion for turning a neighbor into a frog. If he or she does, you can probably give ‘em a good dope slap.)
In addition to your warty medical history, your podiatrist will also perform a physical examination of your wart, and may shave it down slightly to check for pinpoint bleeding. If the growth is suspicious, he or she will probably take a biopsy of the growth and have it analyzed.
Warts are inconvenient at best and downright painful at worst. Stay tuned, my friends, for a future article outlining some top treatments for wart infestations.