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How to tell the difference between callus and plantar warts? (photo)

Skin, Hair & Nails

I have small growths on my big toe that hurt when I apply pressure. How do doctors tell the difference between plantar warts and calluses?

Growth on big toe
DOCTOR’S ANSWER (1)

Thank you for the question. 

Callus is due to hardening of the skin at sites of pressure and friction. The skin hardens and thickens in response to constant friction to the area.

Viral warts are due to an infection by the HPV (Human Papilloma Virus) virus. When this appears on the feet, it is called a plantar wart.

One way of differentiating between a wart and callus is to look for the presence of red dots, which are tiny blood vessels, at the base of the lesion.  If this is seen, it favours the diagnosis of a viral wart. Loss of the overlying skin lines also favours a viral wart. 

There are various ways of treating a viral wart. These includes application of salicylic acid lotion or plasters. Freezing the wart with liquid nitrogen is one of the most common treatment options but a few treatments repeated every 1 to 2 weeks is usually needed. Warts can also be ablated by laser treatment.


Dr Colin Theng
MBBS, MRCP, MMED (Fam. Med), FAMS

The Skin Specialists & Laser Clinic

Mount Alvernia Medical Centre D
820 Thomson Road #07-61
Singapore 574623


261 views 18 Mar 2019
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