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Plantar Warts & HIV

As we all know, HIV/AIDS has been impacting our community for over 40 years in a variety of ways. Fortunately, there has been progress in the advancement of treatments and the survival rates of the disease has increased.  However, there are still issues that plague people living with HIV/AIDS, that are easily remedied with the prescribed medications they take daily. One such issue is the occurrence of the Human papillomavirus or HPV. Though normal every day activities, you may come in contact with this virus and be none the wiser. For someone with a weak immune system this small introduction into the body could mean years of dealing with warts.

Plantar Warts, scientifically named Verruca Plantaris, are one of the most common lesions found in the foot and can be one of the most difficult to treat. Warts occur because the virus HPV enters the body through a small cut, a break, or a weak spot in the tissue of the feet. Warts are non-cancerous lesions which cause no bodily harm if present, but can be very uncomfortable and create pain for the patient when putting pressure on the foot.

When a person has an immunodeficiency such as HIV or AIDS, they are unable to dedicate extra cellular energy in fighting the HPV virus, and therefore it has the potential of proliferating in a manner that would not occur in someone with an uncompromised immune system. Many studies have been done with patients who suffer from HIV and also have plantar warts. Studies(1) have shown that patients who are HIV+ suffer from mosaic type warts, in which the wart is much more spread out and covers a larger surface area of the foot. These lesions are also much harder to treat because of their spread out formation. 

In another study done by Whitacker et al(2), a comparison was performed in treatments performed on patients who had plantar warts who are HIV+ vs. HIV-. The study showed that patients who were HIV+ had a 100% recurrence of all of their lesions 3 months after treatments. The study also showed that patients who suffer from HIV have more total number of lesions in their feet compared to patients who do not suffer from HIV.

Whether patients suffer from an immunodeficient disease or not, it is important to have warts treated in a timely manner, with the correct regimen, to eradicate the lesion. Those who have an immune deficiency, such as HIV, are not only more prone to bodily viruses such as warts, but they also have it in a more aggressive manner. Because of how the virus reacts in a compromised body, the individual has a higher risk of spreading the lesion to others in their community, as well as having the warts spread on themselves, to different body parts.

If this is something you are experiencing, It is important to see your podiatrist fairly quickly to treat the lesions and stop the spread.

Jason Khadavi, DPM

1. Meberg R, Kenyon E, Bierman R, etal: Characterization of plantar verrucae among individuals with human immunodeficiency virus. JAPMA 88:442. 1998.

2. Jeffrey M. Whitaker, Geoffrey L. Gaggero, Lacey Loveland, Lolita Segura, and Peter Barbosa (2001) Plantar Verrucae in Patients with Human Immunodeficiency Virus. Journal of the American Podiatric Medical Association: February 2001, Vol. 91, No. 2, pp. 79-84.

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