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Warts vs Corns: What’s the Difference & How Are They Treated?

warts vs corns

If you notice an uncomfortable lump or a rough skin growth on your foot, it may be a wart or a corn. Both warts and corns grow on the feet and look similar, so it can be difficult for even trained professionals to tell the difference. Treatment for each differs, so it’s important to find out what you’re dealing with so it can be treated effectively.

Warts vs Moles: Differences in Appearance 

Warts are generally small in size, rough to the touch, and skin-colored. They usually have a grainy appearance with some tiny black dots surrounding them. While many warts are raised, plantar warts are usually flat due to the pressure of being on the sole of the foot and being walked on. Corns are usually raised with hard skin, and the surrounding skin will look dry and white. They often have a yellow appearance, especially if they’re on the underside of the foot, but this isn’t always the case.

Warts vs Corns: Difference in Pain

Warts are generally painless, though they may be painful if they’re on your feet, due to the additional pressure of standing on them or shoes rubbing them. Some warts will itch. Corns are generally more likely to hurt than warts, as the thickened skin of the corn creates pressure on the nerves and tissues beneath. It may be like having a stone in your shoe.

What causes warts and corns?

Warts are caused by the Human papillomavirus (or HPV). This contagious virus spreads between people through direct and indirect contact and thrives in warm, moist environments like swimming pools, gyms, locker rooms, and surrounding hallways. HPV enters the body through small cuts or breaks in the skin and can take up to 6 months to manifest as a wart. 

Corns differ because they’re not caused by HPV and are not contagious. They are caused by pressure between the skin and the bone(s) under it. They may also occur in areas of excessive rubbing. Many people develop a corn at some point in their life from pressure built up from wearing ill-fitting shoes.

How do you treat warts and corns?

Warts do not always require medical treatment and may go away on their own, though this not a certainty, often takes as long as it took for them to appear. If a wart is painful or bothering you, you may decide to have the wart removed. 

A corn generally needs treatment if it is painful, and the first step should be to remove pressure and friction by wearing shoes that fit correctly and are comfortable. Some people find relief by soaking the corn in warm water and then buffing the skin with a pumice stone, but if your corn is painful or large, it’s best to see a podiatrist for treatment. Use of orthotics, special inserts for shoes that help redistribute weight and are custom fit, may be necessary to help eliminate the forces which have created the corn. A podiatrist can provide these.

What is the removal procedure like?

There are many, many treatments for warts. They all may work, but none are guaranteed to work. There is no single sure-fire treatment. Warts may treated via a chemical that kills the skin cells of the wart, by paring and freezing the wart, burning the cells, using a laser to alter the blood supply to the wart, and the use of an injectable chemotherapy agent (bleomycin). For some warts, an option may be to cut it out (called excision). The overall success rate for in-office treatments is approximately 70%. Surgical treatment may lead to scars, which themselves may be bothersome. Warts may return despite these treatments. There are some over-the-counter solutions for warts and folk remedies, but these may or may not be helpful.

When to See a Dermatologist for Wart and Corn Removal

A small wart isn’t a cause for concern, but if you have a painful wart or corn on your foot, it’s best to have it assessed by a professional for treatment and removal. Corns and warts aren’t treated the same way, so it’s important to know what you’re dealing with and treat it effectively. The use of a special instrument, a dermoscope, may assist your dermatologist in making the proper diagnosis.

If you have a wart are in the Los Angeles area, Dr. Brian Mekelburg will assess the problem and ensure you receive fast and effective treatment. Click here to find out more about our wart removal service and to book your appointment.

Dr. Brian Mekelburg
Leading Beverly Hills CA and Los Angeles CA physician, consultant & certified dermatologist at Cedars Sinai. 30+ years expertise in cosmetic dermatology, skin conditions, skin cancer & hair loss.

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