Corns, Calluses and Warts – What’s the Difference?

In Conditions by Alnoor Ladhani, Chiropodist

In different movies, we’ve all heard jokes about foot corns, but calluses and warts also exist. We never think about developing these foot growths until one actually appears on our feet. It’s quite hard to distinguish among the three if you’ve never had to research or find out for yourself, so here are the ways to identify what’s on your foot.

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Let’s Talk about Corns

The term “corns” is an umbrella term for three different types of corns. The descriptions aren’t exactly for those with a great appetite, but it’s important to know the difference.  All corns are tender, round patches of dead skin with a painful central core. Corns are caused by friction and different amounts of pressure and are typically smaller in size in comparison to a callus. Ill-fitting footwear is usually the cause for corn formation. And corns are developed on areas that have thinner skin, which separates a corn from a callus.

Hard corns are typically very large in comparison with other two types. They appear on the bottom of the foot or on the top of the toes, usually on top of a bone. A hard corn is hard to the touch.

Soft corns, like hard corns, are round with a core. However, these softer corns occur between the toes, not on the tops.

Seed corns often smaller than the previous two, but appear to have the same physical characteristics. This tiny, seed-like corn is usually on the bottom of the foot, at the ball or heel, but can occur anywhere on the foot. Corns are caused by friction and different amounts of pressure. Corns are typically smaller in size in comparison to a callus.

 

What Are Calluses and How Are They Different?

Corns and calluses are related, so it’s easy to confuse the two. Corns are smaller than calluses, but there is also another noticeable difference between the two: calluses lack a corn’s painful center core. Like corns, they’re made up of thickened, excess skin that is less sensitive than the skin surrounding it. Calluses form where a person’s weight bears down on the foot while walking or at points where a shoe doesn’t fit well and rubs against the foot.

Treatment for calluses is debridement, or removal, of the hardened skin. A simple pumice stone usually removes calluses without pain. To prevent calluses in the future, proper footwear and the reduction of friction should be taken into account. Calluses are benign areas that develop from the friction against a hard or rough surface; this includes shoes. Calluses are also seen on fingers and hands from playing the guitar.

 

How Are Warts Different?

Warts look different from the previous two. Foot warts, or plantar warts, are small, but nasty because they may be contagious. Foot warts have a blood supply that corns and calluses lack. This blood supply gives them the look of a skin tuft or deformity. Treatment for plantar warts is usually to freeze them off, or cryotherapy. A topical ointment may also remove foot warts.

Unlike calluses and corns, warts are typically caused by a strain of Human papillomavirus, or HPV.  If you’ve had plantar warts, you’re not alone.  Ten percent of the population has them. People who frequently have these foot warts often live in warm climates. Showering barefoot at the gym or in other public showers can cause a foot wart infection, so wearing flip-flops in these places will prevent an infection.

 

Are They All Easy to Remove?

Calluses and corns are easy to remove, but warts are tougher. Since warts have a blood supply and nerve system, they are more painful and trickier to remove. Prevention and reduction of corns and calluses can be done through the reduction of chafing in shoes; whereas, warts caused by HPV reoccur since HPV cannot be completely removed with wart treatment.