Corns And Calluses

1 What are Corns and Calluses?

Corns and calluses are hard thickenings on the skin that appear at the areas of pressure and friction. Most common sites are feet, toes and hands.

Though they do not have any serious health effects, they can cause discomfort and might be a concern regarding their appearance.

However, special care should be taken in patients with diabetes as these may lead to other complications.

If you have such a condition, consult with your doctor for advice on how to properly take care of the corns and calluses.

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2 Symptoms

The signs and symptoms of Corn and calluses include:

  • A thick, rough patch on skin
  • A hardened, raised bump
  • Tenderness or pain on the affected area
  • Flaky, dry or waxy skin

Don’t confuse Corns with calluses as they are not same.

They vary in:

  • Size: Corns are smaller whereas calluses are larger.
  • Occurrence: Corns tend to develop on non-weight bearing parts of your feet such as the tops and sides of your toes and even between your toes, calluses develop on weight bearing parts such as soles of your feet, especially under the heels or balls, on your palms, or on your knees.
  • Feel: Corns can be painful when pressed, calluses are rarely painful.

When to see a doctor

Normally, corns and calluses do not require any special medical attention. Talk to your doctor if there is extreme pain in the affected area. Medical consultation should be sought before self-treating corn or callus if you have diabetes as diabetes causes delayed wound healing often leading to ulcer.

3 Causes

Repetitive pressure and friction on specific area is the main cause of corns and calluses.

Pressure due to ill-fitting shoes tight shoes and high heels all compress the same area and contribute to corns or calluses.

Wearing loose footwear and skipping socks cause your foot to repeatedly slide and rub against the shoe.

Likewise, activities that involve repeated pressure on specific areas of hand like playing instruments, using hand tools or even writing can cause corns or calluses in the hand.

4 Making a Diagnosis

Diagnosis of corns and calluses is based on physical examination of the affected area which is necessary to rule other causes of thickened skin, such as warts and cysts.

An X-ray may be recommended to determine if anatomical anomaly is responsible for such condition.

5 Treatment

Avoiding the causes of repetitive pressure is the best way for treating corns and calluses. Wear properly fitting shoes and use protective pads to minimize pressure and friction.

Seek medical treatment if the corns become painful.

Some medical treatments for corns and calluses include:

  • Trimming away excess skin: The thickened skin can be cut down or trimmed with a scalpel but only by your doctor to ensure that you don’t sustain any injury or infection.
  • Callus-removing medication: Over the counter patches containing 40 percent salicylic acid (Callus Remover, Clear Away, others) can be applied on the affected area. Consult your doctor to learn when to apply a new patch and instructions to follow while applying a new patch. Salicylic acid gels are also available for application on larger areas.
  • Medication to reduce infection risk: Topical antibiotic preparations may be used to reduce infection risk.
  • Shoe inserts: Orthotics to prevent recurring corns or calluses may be prescribed in case you have foot deformity.
  • Surgery: Rarely, surgery to adjust positioning of deformed bone may be recommended.

6 Prevention

Follow these tips to prevent corns and calluses:

  • Wear right fit shoes.
  • Use protective coverings and don’t skip socks.
  • Minimize friction between the affected area and footwear by using non-medicated corn pads or bandages. You can also try toe-separators or some lamb's wool between your toes.
  • Protect your hands by using padded gloves when using hand tools. Conversely, you may pad your tool handles with cloth or covers.

7 Lifestyle and Coping

Lifestyle modifications are necessary in order to cope with corns and calluses.

Do not self-treat a corn or callus if you have diabetes or other health issues that cause delayed wound healing as any minor injury sustained during the process can progress to complications. Rather seek medical advice from your doctor.

Once ensured of having no such health problems, you may try these suggestions to help clear up a corn or callus:

  • Use over-the-counter pads.
  • Use a pad to cover the affected area. Exercise precautions while using over-the-counter liquid corn removers or medicated corn pads that contain salicylic acid. Note that salicylic acid is a skin irritant that might cause infection in diabetics.
  • Soak the affected portion in warm water to soften corns and calluses before removing the thickened skin.
  • Rub a corn or callus with a pumice stone or nail file to remove thickened skin during or immediately after bath. (Don’t use pumice stone if you have diabetes). Avoid any sharp object to trim the skin as it might lead to injury.
  • Apply moisturizer to the affected area to keep it soft and supple.
  • Wear shoes that fit right and don’t skip socks.
  • Stick to these tips until your corn or callus disappears.

8 Risks and Complications

Any factor that increases friction between your hand or foot and the surface increases risk for corns and calluses.

Some factors are:

  • Bunions: A bunion is an abnormal, bony bump that forms on the joint at the base of your big toe.
  • Hammertoe: A hammertoe is a deformity in which your toe curls like a claw.
  • Conditions such as bone spur, can cause constant rubbing inside your shoe.
  • Using bare hands while using tools.