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Warts vs. Corns: What’s the Difference?

Warts vs. Corns: What’s the Difference?


Whenever you find an unusual lump or bump on your body, it is important to have it examined and identified. However, in some cases, it can be very difficult to diagnose growth, as different types of lumps often have a similar appearance. Warts and corns are notorious for this: they are both small, hard, flesh-colored lumps, which can cause discomfort or pain. In this article, we’ll discuss the key differences between warts and corns, and offer advice regarding treatment and prevention.

Warts vs. Corns

To identify the difference between warts and corns, we are going to discuss the causes of growth, their appearance, preventions, treatments, etc.

What Is a Wart?


A wart is a hard, grainy lump that grows on the surface of the skin, and is often studded with small, black dots. Although these lumps are benign and therefore harmless, they can cause embarrassment, especially when they grow in a particularly visible area, such as the face. Additionally, they can be painful when they grow in an uncomfortable place, such as the soles of the feet (these are called verrucas) or on an eyelid. They can emerge anywhere, though they usually appear on the fingers and hands, as this is the area of the body that is most likely to come into contact with another wart. 

What Is a Corn?

Like a wart, corn is a hard, rough skin growth, with a thick, callused surface. They are typically small, flaky, and painful to touch. Unlike a wart, however, a corn is not contagious. Moreover, whilst warts can develop on any area of the body, corns almost always grow on the feet and toes

What causes warts?

Warts emerge when a person becomes infected by the human papillomavirus (HPV). When a person comes into contact with HPV, it penetrates the top layers of skin (often via an opening such as a scratch), and begins accelerating the speed at which your skin cells multiply. This leads to the development of a rough, flesh-colored lump on the surface of the skin. There is usually a gap of several months between the initial infection by the virus and the emergence of a wart. 

The virus tends to spread between people via casual skin contact, which means that you are likely to develop a wart if you touch someone else’s. Additionally, warts often spread through the sharing of bath towels, tea towels, or washcloths, because they are prone to growing on damp skin.

What causes corn?


Unlike warts, corns are not caused by a virus. This means that they are not contagious and will not spread from person to person. Instead, corns are caused by friction. In other words, they appear when the skin is rubbed against another surface for a long time. This can happen when you wear shoes that are too small and tight, as your feet will rub up against the side of the shoe. This irritates the skin, leading to the formation of corn. Alternatively, corns can appear when you wear shoes that are too big, as your foot will slide from side to side inside the shoe, irritating the skin. 

How can I tell if a lump is a wart or a corn?

It can be very difficult to determine whether a lump is a wart or a corn simply by looking at it. Nevertheless, the site at which the lump grows is a key indication. Warts can emerge anywhere on the body, whilst corns typically grow on the soles of the feet. This means that, if you find a lump growing anywhere other than your feet, you can be sure that it is not a corn.

Furthermore, as corns are created by friction, they tend to appear wherever there is a pressure point (such as on the balls of your feet). By contrast, warts are more likely to grow around the nails or cracks in the skin.

Squeezing the lump can also help you to diagnose it. If you apply direct pressure to an unusual growth and feel some pain, it is more likely to be a corn. However, if you squeeze a lump from the sides and feel a little pain, it is probably a wart. Be careful when touching the lump, however: warts are contagious, and touching one could cause it to spread, so make sure you wash your hands afterward.

The speed at which the lump grows also provides a clue as to what it is. Typically, it will take months (and, in some cases, years) of friction and skin irritation before a corn begins to emerge. Warts, on the other hand, can appear relatively quickly and tend to grow quite rapidly.

There are also very subtle differences in the appearance of warts and corns. Whilst warts tend to be wrinkly, grainy, and studded with black pinpoints, corns are hard, elevated bumps. Additionally, the skin that surrounds a wart will often look normal, whilst the skin that surrounds corn is typically very dry and flaky.

Nevertheless, the only way to truly know whether a lump on your skin is a wart, corn or something else entirely is to have it diagnosed by a healthcare professional. This will eliminate the risk of cancer and ensure that you have the correct treatment for the growth.

How are warts treated?

Warts are usually treated via a minor surgical procedure. During this treatment, a local anesthetic is used to reduce discomfort, and the lump is simply cut out of the skin using a scalpel. Alternatively, it is possible to remove a wart via a procedure known as cryotherapy, which works by freezing the unwanted lump using liquid nitrogen. This destroys the skin cells which comprise the wart, killing it. 

wart treatment

Warts can also be removed by laser treatment. This procedure works by directing a laser at the wart, which destroys the blood vessels inside of it. As a result, the wart stops receiving oxygen and nutrients, which causes it to die and fall away. 

Finally, there are some over-the-counter remedies for the treatment of warts, which can be purchased from a local pharmacy.

How are corn treated?

Over-the-counter creams and medicines can be purchased from a pharmacy and used to treat corns. However, when these are applied incorrectly, they can cause damage to the healthy skin that surrounds the corn. 

Instead, corns can be removed via surgical excision. During this procedure, a scalpel is used to make a small incision into the lump and the head of the corn is removed. A local anesthetic can be used during this treatment to prevent pain. 

How can I prevent warts from appearing?

Warts are extremely common (especially among children and teenagers, whose immune systems have not yet built up immunity against HPV), and it is not always possible to prevent them from appearing. However, there are things that you can do to reduce your chances of getting a wart. For example, avoid biting your fingernails: this creates cuts around the nails, through which HPV can enter the skin. Additionally, avoid direct contact with warts, and don’t share towels or washcloths with people who have them. 

If you have a wart yourself, do not touch, scratch, or pick at it, as this will lead to the development of further warts. Use a different pumice stone or nail clipper on your wart to that which you use on other areas of your body, as this will prevent a second wart from appearing. 

How can I prevent corns from appearing?

The best way to prevent corns from appearing is to wear shoes that fit comfortably. It is also a good idea to wear thick, comfortable socks, which cushion your feet and prevent the skin from rubbing against the side of the shoe. Similarly, you can add insoles or heel pads to your shoes to make them fit better and thus prevent friction. Regularly cleaning and moisturizing your feet will also prevent the emergence of corns. 

Ultimately, though warts and corns can look alike, they are two very different types of growth, triggered by different causes and prevented by different means. Identifying a lump as either a wart or corn can help you to know how to prevent it from spreading or remove it entirely. If you are in doubt about whether skin growth is a wart or corn, it is always best to have it examined by a dermatologist.


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