What are corns and calluses?
Corns and calluses are thick, hardened layers of skin that develop when your skin tries to protect itself against friction and pressure. They most often develop on the feet and toes or hands and fingers. Corns and calluses can be unsightly.
If you’re healthy, you need treatment for corns and calluses only if they cause discomfort. For most people, simply eliminating the source of friction or pressure makes corns and calluses disappear.
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. Seek your doctor’s advice on proper care for corns and calluses if you have such a condition.
How common are corns and calluses?
Please discuss with your doctor for further information.
What are the symptoms of corns and calluses?
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 are not the same thing.
Corns are smaller than calluses and have a hard center surrounded by inflamed skin. Corns tend to develop on parts of your feet that don’t bear weight, such as the tops and sides of your toes and even between your toes. They can also be found in weight-bearing areas. Corns can be painful when pressed.
Calluses are rarely painful. They usually develop on the soles of your feet, especially under the heels or balls, on your palms, or on your knees. Calluses vary in size and shape and are often larger than corns.
There may be some symptoms not listed above. If you have any concerns about a symptom, please consult your doctor.
When should I see my doctor?
If a corn or callus becomes very painful or inflamed, see your doctor. If you have diabetes or poor blood flow, call your doctor before self-treating a corn or callus because even a minor injury to your foot can lead to an infected open sore (ulcer).
What causes corns and calluses?
Some corns and calluses on the feet develop from an improper walking motion, but most are caused by ill-fitting shoes. High-heeled shoes are the worst offenders. They put pressure on the toes and make women four times as likely as men to have foot problems. Other risk factors for developing a corn or callus include foot deformities and wearing shoes or sandals without socks, which leads to friction on the feet.
Rubbing or pressure can cause either soft corns or plantar calluses. If you or your child develops a callus that has no clear source of pressure, have it looked at by a doctor or a podiatrist, since it could be a wart or be caused by a foreign body – such as a splinter – trapped under the skin. Feet spend most of their time in a closed, moist environment, which is ideal for breeding fungal and bacterial infections. Staph (bacterial) infections can start when bacteria enter corns through breaks in the skin and cause the infected skin to discharge fluid or pus.
What increases my risk for corns and calluses?
There are many risk factors for corns and calluses, such as:
- 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.
- Other foot deformities. Certain conditions, such as a bone spur, can cause constant rubbing inside your shoe.
- Not protecting your hands. Using hand tools without wearing gloves exposes your skin to excessive friction.
Diagnosis & treatment
The information provided is not a substitute for any medical advice. ALWAYS consult with your doctor for more information.
How are corns and calluses diagnosed?
Your doctor will examine your feet and rule out other causes of thickened skin, such as warts and cysts. He or she may recommend an X-ray if a physical abnormality is causing the corn or callus.
How are corns and calluses treated?
Treatment for corns and calluses usually involves avoiding the repetitive actions that caused them to develop. You can help resolve them by wearing properly fitting shoes, using protective pads and taking other self-care measures.
If a corn or callus persists or becomes painful despite your self-care efforts, medical treatments can provide relief:
- Trimming away excess skin. Your doctor can pare down thickened skin or trim a large corn with a scalpel, usually during an office visit. Don’t try this yourself because it could lead to an infection.
- Callus-removing medication. Your doctor may also apply a patch containing 40 percent salicylic acid (Clear Away, MediPlast, others). Such patches are available without a prescription. Your doctor will let you know how often you need to replace this patch. He or she may recommend that you use a pumice stone, nail file or emery board to smooth away dead skin before applying a new patch. You can also get a prescription for salicylic acid in gel form to apply on larger areas.
- Shoe inserts. If you have an underlying foot deformity, your doctor may prescribe custom-made padded shoe inserts (orthotics) to prevent recurring corns or calluses.
- In rare instances, your doctor may recommend surgery to correct the alignment of a bone causing friction.
Lifestyle changes & home remedies
What are some lifestyle changes or home remedies that can help me manage corns and calluses?
If you have diabetes or another condition that causes poor blood flow, consult your doctor before treating a corn and callus on your own.
If you have no underlying health problems, try these suggestions to help clear up a corn or callus:
- Use over-the-counter pads. Apply a pad to protect the area where a corn or callus developed. Be careful using over-the-counter (nonprescription) liquid corn removers or medicated corn pads. These contain salicylic acid, which can irritate healthy skin and lead to infection, especially in people with diabetes or other conditions that cause poor blood flow.
- Soak your hands or feet. Soaking your hands or feet in warm, soapy water softens corns and calluses. This can make it easier to remove the thickened skin.
- Thin thickened skin. During or after bathing, rub a corn or callus with a pumice stone, nail file, emery board or washcloth to help remove a layer of toughened skin. Don’t use a sharp object to trim the skin. Don’t use a pumice stone if you have diabetes.
- Moisturize your skin. Apply moisturizer to your hands and feet to help keep the skin soft.
- Wear comfortable shoes and socks. Stick to well-fitting, cushioned shoes and socks until your corn or callus disappears.
If you have any questions, please consult with your doctor to better understand the best solution for you.
Hello Health Group does not provide medical advice, diagnosis or treatment.
Corns and calluses. https://www.mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/corns-and-calluses/diagnosis-treatment/drc-20355951. Accessed October 31, 2017
Corns and calluses. https://www.webmd.boots.com/foot-care/corns-calluses-symptoms-diagnosis-treatment. Accessed October 31, 2017
Review Date: October 31, 2017 | Last Modified: October 31, 2017