People confuse plantar warts and corns because they look almost alike and occur in the same areas of the feet. Even doctors sometimes have to scrape a few layers of skin off to make a diagnosis. Despite similar appearance, theyre completely different. Warts can appear in all other areas of the body, but corns are isolated to the feet.
All warts are caused by viruses called human papilloma viruses (HPVs) and are infectious. HPVs can lurk on surfaces, clothing, towels, and skin (your own or anothers). Direct contact with any of these can infect your skin through a scratch or other break. The virus grows inward, causing thickening and damage to the skin and the appearance of warts. Warts look different depending upon what part of your body they affect and which type of HPV is involved. Warts are filled with overgrown skin cells and live HPV virus particles. They penetrate deeply into the skin. Below are the main types youre likely to see:
Plantar Warts. "Plantar" is the medical term for the sole of your foot, and thats where these flat-surfaced warts grow. They usually start on the weight-bearing foot areas like the ball, heel, and bottom of the big toe. Commonly passed on surfaces at public swimming pools and showers, they have nothing to do with "planting" crops in bare feet like many people think. Another myth is that the black spots deep inside plantar warts are "roots" or "seeds;" they are actually just dried up capillary blood vessels.
Common Warts. These can appear anywhere on the body, but most often infect your hands. Often in groups, these hard, round or oval, raised warts have a rough, cauliflower- like surface.
Flat Warts. Usually seen in young kids, these soft warts are slightly darker than the surrounding flesh and look like tiny mesas on the your skin --- hence the name flat warts (verruca plana).
Corns only occur on the feet, usually where a prominent bone presses against the inside of your shoe (tops of toes, pressure points of the sole, and between the toes). Pressure causes your skin to thicken at that point, creating the hard surface and core of the corn. They are like calluses penetrating deep instead of spreading wide. Once they form, they become cone-shaped with the point facing inward. That presses on the nerves deep in your skin, and is like having a pebble in your shoe all the time. They arent contagious like warts; only constant pressure on the skin can create them.
Wart viruses are everywhere. Avoiding any contact that might expose you to HPV would mean total isolation. Thus, most authorities recommend the reasonable precautions below to minimize contact with potential carriers or contaminated objects. If you currently have warts, follow these measures to reduce the spread of the virus to other parts of your own body and to other people.
Since corns are a skin response to pressure, relieving pressure on high-risk areas of your feet stops corns from forming (or recurring). Some people have underlying growths or enlargements of their foot bones that create pressure points, but for most, this is a footwear problem. Poor-fitting shoes commonly squeeze the toes together (especially womens shoes), thus the tops and sides of the toes are the most common sites for corns.
Footwear Tips To Prevent Corns
Warts and corns can be treated similarly. You want to remove thickened, diseased skin without damaging surrounding healthy tissue. Salicylic acid is the only OTC medicine considered safe and effective to remove warts and corns. It comes in different strengths and forms, but the best products are the pad or disc types, or flexible collodion (a liquid that dries to a long-acting film). Both allow the salicylic acid to act longer and penetrate deeper (See Recommended Products section for details).
Below are some tips for getting the best results with salicylic acid treatment.
There are certain types of warts that should never be self-treated:
If self-treatment of common warts is ineffective after four weeks, or plantar wart treatment ineffective after 12 weeks, a physician should be consulted. Corns need only to be evaluated by a physician if they are particularly persistent and very painful. Custom orthotic inserts may be considered.
Those with diabetes, peripheral vascular disease, or immune suppression (long term steroid use, other immunosuppressive drugs, or HIV) should never self-treat warts because of the possibility of secondary infection. Of course, if during treatment any sign of infection such as redness, swelling, tenderness, or pus occurs, consult a physician immediately.
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