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Corns and calluses are the terms given to patches of hard, thickened skin. These can be located anywhere on your body, but they are typically found on your feet.
Corns are small, round circles of thick skin. They can develop on any area of your foot, but they are most commonly found on the tops and sides of your toes and on the sole of your foot. They occur more frequently on bony feet that lack cushioning.
Calluses are rough, very hard patches of skin. They are usually found on the heel or the ball of your foot, but they can also be found on your hands and knuckles. Calluses are usually bigger than corns and have a yellow color. They lack well-defined edges and may lack sensitivity compared to the rest of the foot.
Corns and calluses are both caused by friction and pressure. They are usually a protective reaction to prevent damage or blistering of the skin.
The most common cause of corns and calluses is ill-fitting shoes. Shoes that do not fit correctly or are too tight are likely to rub against your skin, causing friction. Excessive amounts of walking or running in well-fitting shoes can also cause corns and calluses, as can standing up for very long periods.
Women who wear high heels frequently are likely to suffer from calluses over the ball of the foot, because of the pressure put on this joint when walking.
Other possible causes of corns and calluses include manual labor, bunching of your socks or the lining of your shoes, not wearing shoes, or taking part in athletic events that put pressure on the feet.
Some people are more likely to get corns and calluses than others. People with bunions or hammertoes tend to be more prone than others. People who walk with overpronation (ankles roll inward too much) or oversupination (ankles roll outward too much) also tend to be more frequent sufferers. People who have damaged sweat glands, scars, or warts on their feet are also more likely to develop corns and calluses.
Corns and calluses are usually painless, although they can become painful after extended periods. There are several treatments for these problems. Choosing the right treatment depends on the original cause of your corns or calluses.
If you have diabetes, check your feet for damage regularly and consult your doctor if you notice any. People with other conditions that make them prone to ulcers or infections should also consult medical help.
If corns and calluses fail to heal quickly, become infected, or are painful, red, hot, or oozing, medical attention should be sought.
To identify corns, your doctor will examine your foot and may press different areas to assess sensitivity. You will be asked about lifestyle habits such as your typical choice of footwear, how much walking you do, and whether you have undertaken any sporting events recently. You may also be asked to walk across the room, so that your doctor can assess your gait.
Your doctor is then likely to refer you to a podiatrist for treatment. Treatments vary depending on cause; options include insoles and special socks to allow your foot to heal. You may also be offered special silicone wedges to wear between your toes and help redistribute your weight and improve your posture.
Self-Treatment for Corns
There are a variety of over-the-counter treatments available for corns. Typically, they aim to soothe any pain or discomfort while relieving pressure. This will allow your foot to heal. It is advisable to only use over-the-counter treatments as a temporary solution until you can see your doctor. Corns and calluses can be a symptom of an underlying condition, so if they don’t respond to self-treatment you may want to bring them to your doctor’s attention.
One of the most common treatments is corn plasters. These are thick rubber rings that have an adhesive surface. Once applied around a corn, the plaster is designed to take the pressure, allowing your foot to heal. In some cases, corn plasters can cause the hardening of the thinner skin around the corn.
Surgery for Calluses
If your podiatrist thinks it is necessary, surgery can be used to remove calluses. This is typically only necessary if calluses are causing a great deal of pain and stopping you from being able to walk comfortably.
The surgery involves using a sharp blade to remove the thickened area and does not hurt. You are usually able to walk again immediately afterward.
Corns and calluses may clear up on their own if the cause is identified and stopped, or if they appeared because of participation in an athletic event like a marathon.
Typically, there are no long-term consequences for failing to treat corns and calluses, other than they are likely to reappear and grow larger until the problem is fixed. In some cases, corns and calluses may become infected and make walking extremely painful. In these cases, additional treatment may be necessary, and some scarring may remain when the calluses have healed.
Corns and calluses can be prevented in a number of ways, including;
Wear comfortable footwear that fits properly. When you are shoe shopping, go in the afternoon, when your feet are at their widest. This will help you to choose shoes that will be comfortable and fit well all day.
General Foot Care
Dry your feet carefully after washing them or getting them wet. Use a moisturising foot cream regularly. These creams are designed to soothe the feet, as well as soften skin.
Use a foot file or pumice stone to remove patches of hard skin from your feet. Foot files should be replaced regularly. Pumice stones should be allowed to dry thoroughly between each use.
Report Foot Pain
If you notice any foot pain or discomfort when walking, see your doctor. Foot pain is not normal, but it is usually quite easy to identify and diagnose. There is a variety of different treatments available to solve the problem and prevent further foot problems.
- Corns and Calluses. (n.d.). Patient. Retrieved July 23, 2012, from http://www.patient.co.uk/health/Corns-and-Calluses.htm
- Corns and calluses - Prevention - NHS Choices. (n.d.). NHS Choices - Your health, your choices. Retrieved July 23, 2012, from http://www.nhs.uk/Conditions/CornsandCalluses/Pages/CornsandcallusesPrevention.aspx
- Corns and calluses - PubMed Health. (n.d.). National Center for Biotechnology Information. Retrieved July 23, 2012, from http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmedhealth/PMH0002212/
- Corns and calluses: MedlinePlus Medical Encyclopedia. (n.d.). National Library of Medicine - National Institutes of Health. Retrieved July 23, 2012, from http://www.nlm.nih.gov/medlineplus/ency/article/001232.htm
- What to Do about Bunions - Harvard Health Publications. (n.d.). Health Information and Medical Information - Harvard Health Publications. Retrieved July 23, 2012, from http://www.health.harvard.edu/newsletters/Harvard_Womens_Health_Watch/2011/June/what-to-do-about-bunions
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