Auteur: Dr Du Pied, podiatre
Corns or calluses are a hardened and thickened layer of skin on the foot that is formed in response to pressure or friction. They are part of the body’s defense system and are intended to protect the underlying tissues. If the cause of the pressure is not relieved, calluses can become painful. If the pressure exerted becomes concentrated in a small area, a “hard” horn may develop. A callus has a central core.
Common sites where calluses and corns can develop are the tip of the foot, under the big toe and the tips of the toes. Soft” corns may develop between the toes where the skin is wet from sweat or poor drying. Sometimes pressure from the corns or callus can cause inflammation, which can lead to severe pain, swelling and redness.
Corns and calluses could be a sign that you have an underlying foot disorder (such as a misaligned joint). That’s why it’s important to seek professional help rather than trying to treat calluses or corns yourself.
Symptoms of corns and calluses may include :
- a thick, hard area of skin on the foot
- a small hard bump on the skin that could have a central core
white, rubbery bumps on the skin (“soft” corns between the toes)
- in some cases, the callus sinks into the inside of the foot, rather than growing on the surface of the skin
- pain when pressure or friction is applied to the area
Some people are at greater risk than others.
Anyone can develop corns or calluses, but some people are particularly at risk, including :
- The elderly – because aging skin loses its elasticity and fatty tissue.
- People who spend a lot of time standing – because of the pressure exerted on their feet by continuous loading.
- People with feet that roll inward (the flat foot) – the flat foot puts excessive pressure on the tip of the foot under the big toe, and on the inside of the heel.
- People with foot problems (such as a hammer toe, bunions or arthritis) – a bony prominence can rub continuously against the shoe or neighbouring toes.
- People who regularly wear high heels or narrow, tight or ill-fitting shoes.
Do not attempt to treat corns and calluses yourself.
Over-the-counter treatment options, such as coricidal plasters, do not treat the underlying foot problem. The body protects the skin from damage caused by friction or excessive stress by producing a hard area of skin. So unless the cause of the stress or friction is identified and corrected, calluses and corns will continue to form. If used incorrectly, these over-the-counter treatment options can also damage the surrounding healthy skin. Never attempt to cut or scratch callus. If you accidentally cut your foot, the moist environment of socks and shoes makes infection of the wound more likely.
Ask your Podiatrist for advice
If you have corns or calluses, or if you think you might be developing them, consult your Podiatrist for treatment. Treatment options may include :
- Investigation and treatment of possible causes (such as bunions).
- Professional callus or horn reduction for pain relief.
- Custom-made foot supports or padding on various areas of the foot to reduce stress; for example, you may need to wear small foam cushions between the toes.
- If necessary, you may have to wear a foot orthosis to reduce long-term stress.
- Advice on proper footwear and foot care.
© 2019 Dr Du Pied, Podiatre