Corns and calluses

Feet | Podiatry - Podiatric Medicine | Corns and calluses (Disease)


An area of hard, thickened skin that is formed in response to pressure or friction is called a callus. When pressure is concentrated in a small area, a corn, which has a central core, may develop. If the pressure is not relieved, calluses and corns can become painful.

Corns and calluses are annoying and sometimes painful thickenings that form in the skin in areas of pressure. The medical term for the thickened skin that forms corns and calluses is hyperkeratosis. A callus refers to a more diffuse, flattened area of thick skin, while a corn is a thick, localized area that usually has a conical or circular shape. Corns, also known as helomas, sometimes have a dry, waxy, or translucent appearance.

Common sites of corns and calluses are the ball of the foot, under the big toe, tips of toes and any bony prominence. ‘Soft’ corns may develop between the toes, where the skin is moist from sweat or inadequate drying. Sometimes, the pressure of the corn or callus may produce inflammation, which can result in pain, swelling and redness.

Causes and Risk factors

Normally, a callus can form on any part of the skin exposed to friction over a long period of time. For example, people often develop calluses on the middle finger of their dominant hand due to writing with a pen or pencil. Another cause is from playing string instruments like the violin or the guitar. Calluses are also very common on the fingers of bassists who use both the pizzicato and slapping techniques. Activities that are notorious for causing calluses include (but are not limited to) playing musical instruments, martial arts, many sports (specifically rowing and racket sports), weight training, dancing (especially ballet), digging, praying, chopping wood, and wearing high heels.

Diagnosis and Treatment

A history and physical exam will be performed. Pressure should be remove on area with pads, shoe inserts, or new footwear. The callus/corn can be softened with salicylic acid. Sometimes surgical removal is necessary. ...

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