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What Are Corns And Calluses? Causes, Symptoms, Risk Factors, Treatments And Prevention

Corns and calluses are buildups on the outer layer of the skin. They are characterised by thick, tender and hard layers on the skin that can form anywhere on the skin, but usually found in feet and hands. The hardening and thickening of the skin are also known as hyperkeratosis.

Corns and calluses are formed as a result of the body's natural defence system against prolonged friction, strain pressure or rubbing. They protect the underlying skin areas from damage or injury. They are not harmful but can cause irritation and be painful sometimes. Corns and Calluses are more prevalent in women than in men. Take a look at the details.

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What Are Corns And Calluses?

Corns: They are small, round, thick and hard andmainly found on the smooth part of the foot such as on the top or side of the toes. Corns are whitish and have a rubber-like texture. They are of three types: hard cones found mainly on the top of the toes over joints due to large bone pressure against the skin (especially on bony feet), soft cones found between the toes and seed corns which are small and found on the bottom of the feet. They press into the deeper skin layers, are pea-sized and may be painful. [1]

Calluses: They are larger, irregular and thick patches on the skin. Calluses are found mainly on the heels, the bone area that carries most of the body's weight. To some extent, they are considered normal and can also be seen on hands and knuckles. Calluses are bigger than corns and yellow in shade. They are usually painless but can cause pain if get infected. [2]

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Causes Of Corns And Calluses

Causes of corns and calluses (CAC) can be anything that causes repeated friction or pressure on the foot or other body parts. [3] Some of the causes include:

  • Wearing a tight shoe as it may compress the toes and feet from all the sides.
  • Wearing a high heel sandal as it may cause too much pressure on the heels of the feet.
  • Wearing a very loose shoe as it may cause the toes to slide and rub on the sides of the shoes repeatedly.
  • Loose socks or no socks as the foot will be directly exposed to the friction against the shoes.
  • Playing musical instruments such as guitar.
  • Seed corns are caused due to blockage of sweat glands.

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Symptoms Of Corns And Calluses

  • Dry skin
  • A raised, thick and hard skin
  • Flaky and scaly skin
  • Tendered skin
  • Painful skin
  • Poor blood circulation in the foot, especially in people with diabetes or heart conditions.
  • Less sensitivity in the area, mainly in calluses.

Risk Factors Of Corns And Calluses

  • Pre-existing medical conditions like arthritis, bone spur, bunions or hammertoe.
  • Smoking
  • Playing musical instruments without gloves.
  • Being above the age 65.
  • Abnormal gait (in the walking posture).
  • Poorly fitting shoes, very tight or loose.
  • People with occupations related to farming or gardening.
  • Regular jogging, walking, cycling or walking barefooted for a longer time.

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Complications Of Corns And Calluses

Untreated CAC can cause complications like:

  • A large-sized CAC
  • Infection or open sore in the area [4]
  • Bleeding from the area

Diagnosis Of Corns And Calluses

Diagnosis of CAC is recommended mainly to people with pre-existing conditions such as diabetes. Also, if you observe the spread of CAC to a larger area, contact a medical expert soon. They will do a physical examination and may suggest x-ray to see for any physical abnormalities.

Treatment Of Corns And Calluses

  • Medications: It includes creams, pads, gels or plasters containing salicylic acid. They are prescribed medications that help remove dead cells and reduce the thickening in the skin areas. They are generally not prescribed for diabetics. [1]
  • Trimming the area: In this process, a medical expert trims the thickened areas with a scalpel. Avoid doing it at home.
  • Surgery: If the cause of CAC is improper bone alignment. [5]
  • Custom-shoes: If the cause is a bone deformity. This helps prevent recurring CAC.

How To Prevent Corns And Calluses

  • If you don't have diabetes or any pre-existing conditions, wear medicated corn pads containing salicylic acid.
  • Wear well-fitted shoes.
  • Avoid wearing shoes without socks.
  • Wash feet properly and soak the toes and sole of the feet once every week in warm water.
  • While bathing, rub all the sides of toes and feet with a loofah or washcloth. You can rub the heels with a pumice stone. Avoid rubbing too hard.
  • Always moisturise your hands and feet.
  • Always keep the toenails short.
  • If you have calluses, prevent trimming yourself as it may cause infection.

Common FAQs

1. What is the difference between a corn and a callus?

Corns are hard and thick skin buildup mainly in the joints of the toes while calluses are developed below the foot, especially in the heels. Also, the prior is usually pea-shaped and develops in a small area while the latter develops in a larger area.

2. Can you dig out corns?

Digging out corns is not a good idea. However, if you want to reduce the thickening in the area, wear medicated corn pads containing salicylic acid.

Story first published: Monday, June 22, 2020, 13:15 [IST]