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What are Corns and Calluses?

Corns

A podiatrist may be able to treat corns or badly callused areas.
A podiatrist may be able to treat corns or badly callused areas.

A corn is a small area of skin which has become thickened due to increased pressure on the area. A corn is roughly round in shape. Corns press into the deeper layers of skin and can be painful. They usually develop on toes and the tops and sides of toes or on the sole of the foot but they can happen anywhere.

Corns often occur on bony feet as there’s a lack of natural cushioning. They can also develop as a symptom of another foot problem, such as:

  • a bunion – where the joint of the big toe sticks outwards as the big toe begins to point towards the other toes on the same foot
  • hammer toe – where the toe is bent at the middle joint

Calluses

A callus is larger and broader than a corn and has a less well-defined edge. They can develop on:

  • feet – usually around the heel area or on the skin under the ball of the foot
  • palms of the hands
  • knuckles

Other possible causes of calluses include:

  • dry skin
  • reduced fatty padding – elderly people have less fatty tissue in their skin
  • regularly holding objects such as a hammer or racquet

How do you treat corns and calluses?

  • Make sure your shoes fit properly. They should not crowd your toes or allow your foot to slip around in the heel. There should be a space of at least ½ inch (1.25 cm) between the tip of your longest toe and the front of the shoe.
  • Apply a felt pad with a hole in the centre over a corn to reduce pressure on the area.
  • Put a latex foam insole into your shoe or apply moleskin to the affected area to cushion and protect your foot.
  • You can use a pumice stone or callus file (emery board) to remove dry skin build-up. Use the pumice stone on wet skin and the file on dry skin.
  • Never cut a corn or callus yourself with any instrument.

Non-prescription products are available to help remove the corn or callus such as corn plasters, are available from your pharmacist. However, they don’t treat the cause of the corn and may affect the normal, thinner skin surrounding the corn. Corn plasters may not be suitable for certain people, such as those with diabetes, circulation problems, or fragile skin.

The podiatrist may be able to treat corns or badly callused areas using a sharp blade to remove the thickened area of skin. This is painless and should help reduce pain and discomfort. They can also provide advice on self-care and prescribe special insoles.

How Can You Prevent Corns or Calluses?

You can also help prevent corns and calluses by looking after your feet and choosing the right shoes to wear.

Follow the advice below to help stop any hard dry skin developing:

  • Dry your feet thoroughly after washing them and apply a moisturising foot cream (not body lotion).
  • Use a pumice stone or foot file regularly to gently remove hard skin. If you use a pumice stone, make sure it dries completely between uses and doesn’t harbour bacteria.
  • Wear comfortable footwear that fits properly. Always shop for shoes in the afternoon, because your feet swell as the day goes on. This means shoes that fit in the afternoon will be comfortable. You should be able to move your toes inside the shoe with a small gap between the front of the shoe and your longest toe. If possible, avoid wearing heels as they increase the pressure on the front of your feet.
  • Don’t put up with foot pain as if it’s normal. Either see a podiatrist directly or go to your doctor or pharmacist, who may refer you to a podiatrist. They’ll be able to investigate the underlying cause of your foot pain.

References:

  1. Corns and Calluses. Compendium of Therapeutics for Minor Ailments. Canadian Pharmacists Association (2016)
  2. Corns and Calluses- US National Library of Medicine. MedlinePlus. (2016)
  3. Corns and Calluses- National Health Services (UK). (2016)

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This article was provided by an Rxnet Pharmacist, Rxnet is a virtual pharmacy network that helps plan sponsors optimize their drug plan design to obtain cost efficient solutions for their plan members. We also work with clients to provide access to our member pharmacies through text refills and online refills.

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This information is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health provider with any questions about your medical condition. Do not disregard professional medical advice or delay seeking advice or treatment because of something you have read here.

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