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How can you tell the difference between a wart and a callus?

How do you differenciate a wart from a callus?

What's the difference between a wartand a callus?  How do you tell the two apart?  It's a common question in my podiatry office.  Ironically, I think the common wart is an interesting virus to study.  It's benign, self limiting with age and responds to many different treatment options.   Callus, on the other hand is different.  Callus increases with age.  Let's see if we can't help you figure out the difference between a wart and a callus.

common wart of he skinThe most common scenario I see in the office is a middle aged patient who's chief complaint is a wart on the bottom of the foot.  Possible, sure.  But not likely.  Warts are a disease of adolescence.  We'll usually find warts in a population of patients aged 8-30 years of age.  As we mature beyond our fourth decade of life, we seem to acquire a resistance to the papova virus that causes the common wart.  So, the first consideration in differentiating a wart from a callus is age.

The second consideration is location of the lesion.  Warts are most commonly found on the bottom of the foot.  Occasionally I'll see Deep callus of the foota wart on the top of the foot or between the toes, but by far, the most common location is the bottom of the foot.  And callus?  You'll find callus on both the top and the bottom of the foot.

Another tip is the appearance of the wart or callus.  Callus, when trimmed is smooth and clear, made of hard keratin.  Warts on the other hand have little black dots.  Wart tissue is living tissue that is highly vascularized.  The blood vessels that feed the wart are bumps and clot making the wart have little black dots, or clots.  Trimm a wart and you'll see pinpoint bleeding.  Calluses on the other hand never have these little black dots.  Trim a callus and you'll have no bleeding.

So how do you tell the difference between a wart and callus?  First is age - warts in the younger population and callus in the older population.  The appearance is the other differentiating fact.  Black stipples and it's a wart.  No black stipples, likely a callus.


Dr. Jeffrey Oster
Jeffrey A. Oster, DPM

Medical Director

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