Plantar Wart vs Corn: What’s the Difference?

You probably know that plantar warts and corns can be unsightly. Although they can both appear on feet, they’re not the same ailment. Their overall appearance, where they’re located, and their treatment are just a few of the factors that set them apart. It’s important to know how to properly diagnose and treat these conditions, especially if you’re suffering from constant foot pain. So what is the difference between a plantar wart and a corn? Use this guide to learn more about their different causes and the suggested treatment plans.

What Is a Plantar Wart?

man in a green polo doing nail care in a doctor's office
Image via Pixabay by HansLinde

Plantar warts are caused by the human papillomavirus (HPV) that enters through cuts or weakened areas on the body. When it comes to the feet, plantar warts typically appear at the base of the toes or the heel and usually resemble small, fleshy, and grainy growths. Because the bottom of the foot receives a lot of pressure, plantar warts can grow inward and form a callus over a well-worn area.

Other ways to determine if you have plantar warts include:

  • Pain when standing or walking.
  • The growth consists of black dots or pinpoints.
  • The growth forms in clusters.

The contagious virus that forms plantar warts can spread from person to person via direct and indirect contact. Plantar warts sometimes take up to six months to appear after exposure to the virus. Also, not everyone develops a wart if they’ve been exposed to the virus. Those with strong immune systems might be able to fight off the virus.

How Is a Plantar Wart Diagnosed?

Visiting a medical professional for a diagnosis is one of the best ways to determine if you have plantar warts on your feet. This professional will examine your foot and perhaps use a scalpel to scrape the lesion. The doctor might also check for signs of dark, pinpoint spots, which are tiny clotted blood vessels. If there’s a concern that you might have warts, the doctor might remove a small section of the lesion and send it to a laboratory for analysis.

What Is the Treatment Plan for a Plantar Wart?

Certain plantar warts are harmless and will go away on their own, although it might take one or two years. However, if you find that your warts are painful or are beginning to spread, reach out to a doctor who might prescribe one or more of the following:

  • Salicylic acid: This prescription-strength wart medication slowly removes layers of the wart. It might also stimulate your immune system to fight off the wart’s growth. Your doctor will likely suggest using this medication on your wart at home and following up with occasional visits to the office.
  • Cryotherapy: Typically done at the doctor’s office, cryotherapy involves applying liquid nitrogen to the wart via a spray or cotton swab. Some patients want the area numbed beforehand since this procedure can be painful. The nitrogen causes a blister to form around the wart, and the dead tissue will fall off within a week or so. Cryotherapy might also stimulate your immune system to fight off the wart’s growth. You might need to return to the office every two or four weeks for repeat treatment until the wart is gone.
  • Immune therapy: The doctor uses solutions and medications to stimulate your immune system to fight off the wart’s growth.
  • Laser treatment: These treatments cauterize tiny blood vessels, causing the infected tissue to eventually die and the wart to fall off.

What Is a Corn?

Unlike a plantar wart, a foot corn is a thick layer of skin that develops on your foot due to constant pressure and friction. They’re often found on toes and feet. Corns tend to have a raised, hard bump that’s surrounded by flaky and dry skin.

Also, unlike plantar warts, corns aren’t caused by a virus and are not contagious. Rather, they’re caused by wearing shoes that are too tight or loose  — forcing your foot to deal with too much pressure or to slide around in the shoe. They also only appear on the foot, while plantar warts can appear on any part of the body. There are three different types of corns:

  • Hard: These corns are usually small, dense areas of skin found within a larger area of thickened skin. Hard corns are likely found on the tops of the toes.
  • Soft: These corns are white or gray and have a softer texture. Soft corns are typically found between the toes.
  • Seed: These corns are small and usually found on the bottom of feet.

How Is a Corn Diagnosed?

A doctor can help diagnose corns on your feet and rule out other causes of your pain. You might need an X-ray to determine if the corns are caused by a physical abnormality.

What Is the Treatment Plan for a Corn?

One of the first steps you should do when dealing with a corn is to eliminate the cause of pressure and friction. That means you need to make shoes that fit a priority. Consider placing shoe inserts or pads inside your shoes to give you more comfort. You could also try soaking your feet in water to soften the corn and using a pumice stone to file down the skin.

If you’re experiencing pain with your corn or believe the area has become infected, it might be time to visit the doctor. Your doctor might recommend the following:

  • Trimming away the skin: For larger corns, a doctor might use a scalpel to pare down the thickened skin. This usually only takes one office visit.
  • Surgery: If you have a structural deformity in your toes or feet, the doctor might recommend surgery. The doctor would remove or realign bone tissue.

So is it a Foot Corn or a Wart? Contact Dr. Schoene

Plantar warts and corns can be very painful when not properly treated. If you’re experiencing plantar warts or corns on your feet, reach out to a medical professional such as Dr. Schoene at Gurnee Podiatry and Sports Medicine Associates. As an experienced podiatrist, Dr. Schoene knows how to properly treat these foot issues and can have you walking pain-free in no time.