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Feeling the pressure! - Corns and calluses

April 2013

Corns and CallusesTell your friends you have a corn on your foot, and you will probably find you won’t receive too much sympathy.  Yet corns and calluses can be very painful and make walking difficult.

Both corns and calluses are similar in that they are both areas of hard, thickened skin, usually found on the foot. When we walk, obviously there is force and friction with each step on our feet, and this can irritate the foot. In response to this, the skin will often thicken to give added natural protection, and this is what we call a corn or a callus.

There is a small difference between corns and calluses.

Corns occur because of quite direct pressure to a small area on the foot. They are usually smaller and go a lot deeper than calluses, and this means they can be quite painful. They can occur anywhere including on toes and often appear on bony feet because there is a lack of cushioning. Badly fitting shoes can encourage the development of corns.

A callus will usually be found on the sole of the foot and is generally quite superficial and won’t cause much pain. It occurs simply because of the shear forces and twisting that occurs on the bottom of the foot as you walk on the ground. A callus is usually larger than a corn and does not have such a well defined edge as a corn. It is often yellowish in colour.

Generally, if you find you have a corn or a callus, a key aspect is to identify the cause. Check your shoes for fit , support and comfort, check your posture and your walking style. 

If the problem is minor, then many people like to initially see if they can sort out the problem themselves. There are various treatments available at main chemists but the majority, such as corn plasters, only treat the symptoms and not the cause.

One treatment is to soften the skin by soaking your foot in hot water for about 20 minutes. Then use a pumice stone to gently rub away the thickened skin, just a little at a time. A special paint can be bought from chemists to break down the hard skin of the corn and soften it. Enormous care though needs to be taken to ensure the paint doesn’t affect healthy skin.

Generally, it is much better to see your GP who may recommend treatment or refer you to a podiatrist or chiropodist to get the best advice.

Sometimes physical removal of a corn is required.  Here a scalpel is used in a painless method to remove the corn.

Occasionally an artificial filler such as silicone is recommended. This is inserted under the corn to act as in internal pad to relieve pain and provide protection against further development of the corn, but this treatment is not common in the UK.

If after treatment the corn keeps coming back, then the cause of the problem will be professionally checked. Sometimes an odd shaped foot or walking pattern can be the cause and treatment to correct this will be recommended, occasionally involving surgery.

But the best thing is to identify the cause and ensure the reason for the formation of the corn or callus is removed. Then, once the treatment is completed resulting in the removal of the corn or callus, the problem should not return.


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