On first look, warts and corns can look very similar. So much so, that we’ve seen countless patients that have gotten them mixed up - including other health professionals - resulting in the wrong problem being (rather unsuccessfully) treated.
Given that one is a living and growing tissue, and the other is hard and dead skin, knowing what that lump on your foot actually is is essential to safe and effective treatment. Today, we’re sharing what we look for that lets us confidently and accurately tell the two apart - and how the treatment differs.
Before we get started, you need to know that both warts and corns can (and often do) have overlying callus. Without removing this overlying hard skin, you cannot with 100% confidence make a diagnosis. It’s only when any overlying callus is debrided (removed, painlessly) that you can examine the different features of warts and corns. Also, both warts and corns can come in a variety of sizes, and you can have one or many of them at the same time. They are both relatively circular.
How to spot a wart
Plantar warts, otherwise known as verrucae, are living and growing tissues. Warts are caused by a virus that invades the cells to form the wart tissue. Warts get their own blood and nerve supply, meaning that if you ‘cut’ a wart, it’ll be painful and bleed. After any callus overlying a wart is debrided, you’ll notice:
- Little black dots to show dried blood, and/or little spots of fresh new blood
- A rough, uneven, granular appearance in the wart tissue
- Warts are often raised and appear thicker than the surrounding skin
- Pain if you squeeze the wart from side to side with your fingers
- The lines of your skin (called striations) go around the wart, not through it
Compared to a corn
Comparatively, a corn develops from excess pressure or friction being repeatedly applied to a specific area of skin. It has no living component, and no blood or nerve supply. This is why it can be rather easily and painlessly ‘scooped’ out with the right podiatric instruments. Again, once any overlying callus is removed, you will notice:
- A darker, deeper circular area of skin
- No or minimal pain on squeezing it from side to side, but you may experience pain when pushing directly down on it
- A smooth, flat surface of the corn
- No dried or fresh blood in the area
- Skin lines (striations) move through the corn instead of around it
How does the treatment differ?
Simply put, corns are very easy for us to remove during your appointment and give you almost instant relief when you place your feet down. Warts are another kettle of fish.
As we’re dealing with living tissue with warts, treatment often has two components: something to act on the infected wart cells, and something to stimulate the body to fight and clear the infection. This is where we may use salicylic acid, silver nitrate, cryotherapy, puncture treatment or even minor surgery to help clear the wart.
This often creates a problem because while the acid we mentioned is used to work on the infected wart tissue (and is applied very carefully not to damage the healthy surrounding tissue), when you apply it to a corn by mistake, it very often does damage the healthy surrounding skin. This means pain, redness, swelling and a lot of discomfort when you walk! So make sure you have the right diagnosis so you can receive the right treatment.
Getting rid of the lump and the pain starts with the right diagnosis…
… And that’s precisely what we start with at South Burnett Podiatry. We carefully assess and diagnose your foot or leg problem, create a treatment plan, and make sure you fully understand and are happy with your course of treatment.