What are corns and callus?
Corns and calluses are thick, hardened layers of skin that develop when your skin tries to protect itself against friction, pressure or rubbing. They are more common among people who wear ill-fitting shoes, have sweaty feet, and those who stand for long periods each day.
Corns: are a type of callus. They are smaller than calluses and have a clearly defined center, that can be hard or soft, surrounded by inflamed skin. Corns can develop anywhere in the feet but generally they form on smooth, hairless skin surfaces, especially on the top or the side of the toes. People tend to be unaware that they can occur in areas such as in between the toes, under toenails or at the sides of toenails. Corns are painful when direct pressure is applied to them. Soft corns tend to be whitish in color, with a rubbery texture. They more commonly occur between the toes, in areas of moist and sweaty skin.
Callus: is more commonly known as hard skin. It is a section of skin that has become toughened and thick because of friction, pressure, or irritation. Callus usually develops on the soles of your feet, especially under the heels or balls of your feet. Calluses vary in size and shape and are often larger than corns with less defined edges and no distinct centre. They feel lumpy to the touch, but, as the skin is thick, it may be less sensitive to touch compared with the skin around it. They typically form over the bony area just under the toes and on areas of skin that take the person’s weight when they are walking.
Types of corns:
Hard corns– (most common)These are pea-sized and have a small, hard plug of skin in the centre. The plug can press into the skin and cause pain and swelling. Hard corns often occur over a bony area such as the little toe.
Soft corns– These are whitish and rubbery in texture and appear between the toes where the skin is moist from sweat or trapped moisture. They are extremely painful and can sometimes become infected by bacteria or fungi.
Seed corns– These are clusters of small, usually painless corns on the bottom of the foot.
Vascular corns– These develop on blood vessels and bleed if they are cut.
Fibrous corns– These have been present for a long time and become attached to the deeper layers of skin.
What do they look like?
Corns and calluses can be unsightly. You may have a corn or a callus if you notice:
- A thick, rough area of skin
- A hardened, raised bump
- Tenderness or pain under your skin
- Flaky, dry or waxy skin
- Corns and calluses can make a person feel as if they are walking on stones.
Are corns and callus the same thing?
People sometimes mistakenly use the terms corns and calluses interchangeably, but they are not the same. However they are caused by the same thing, i.e. pressure or friction. Corns can be painful when pressed, but calluses are not usually painful.
What causes corns and callus?
Tight shoes and high heels can cause corns and callus due to compression of your feet. On the other hand, when footwear is too loose, friction occurs due to your foot repeatedly sliding and rubbing against the shoe. Your foot may also rub against a seam or stitch on the inside of the shoe.
It is important to always wear socks when wearing enclosed shoes. Wearing shoes and sandals without socks can cause friction on your feet. Socks that don’t fit properly also can be a problem. Try to wear seamless socks where possible.
Walking barefoot regularly can cause corns or callus as the skin will thicken to protect itself. Try to avoid barefoot walking as much as possible.
Deformities such as bunions, hammertoes, etc. increase the risk of corns and calluses due to increased pressure in these areas from footwear. A bunion is an abnormal, bony bump that forms on the joint at the base of your big toe. A hammertoe is a deformity in which your toe curls like a claw.
The elderly are more at risk of developing corns and callus as there is less fatty tissue in the skin, which means less padding , especially on the ball of the foot. However, corns can occur at any age if there is excess pressure in a particular area.
How do I treat them?
If a corn or callus becomes very painful or inflamed, see a Podiatrist. It is extremely important to bare in mind that if you have diabetes or another condition that causes poor blood flow to your feet, you’re at greater risk of complications from corns and calluses. Even a minor injury to your foot can lead to an infected open sore (ulcer). You should not try to self diagnose or self treat. Always seek the advice of a specialist in this area such as a Podiatrist.
When you attend for treatment the podiatrist will examine the feet, ask the person about their lifestyle, and they may check their footwear. They will then debride some of the thick skin with a scalpel to relieve pressure on the tissues that lie beneath. People should not cut the corn or callus at home as it could make it more painful and the risk of infection is high.
It is very important to note that corns and calluses can be removed, but they may return without lifestyle or footwear changes. It is not always a once off treatment as they often reoccur.
Please do not apply medicated corn plasters at home. These plasters contain acid which tends to burn the healthy skin around the corn but leave the corn itself behind. This leaves the corn soft and macerated which can mean that treatment is more difficult for the Podiatrist.
How do I prevent them?
For most people, simply eliminating the source of friction or pressure helps to prevent corns or callus.
Wear shoes that give your toes plenty of room. If you can’t wiggle your toes, your shoes are too tight. Purchase shoes with a deep and wide toe box. Have a shoe shop stretch your shoes if you feel that they are rubbing or pinching your feet. Shop for shoes later in the day, when the feet are at their largest, because feet swell slightly as the day progresses.
Use protective coverings. Wear felt pads or defective dressings over areas that rub against your footwear. You can also try toe separators between your toes. There are lots or devices available for specific areas therefore you should consult your Podiatrist for more information.
Regularly apply a foot cream, preferably one that contains a high percentage of urea. Do not use a body lotion as the skin on your feet is very different to the skin on the rest of your body. My personal favourite foot cream is Dermatonics Once Heel Balm which can be purchased in Step Ahead Footcare. Feel free to call in or contact the clinic on 0876001324 for more information.