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Corn and Callus Treatment

Corns and calluses generally don’t cause problems but can be effectively treated and removed if they cause discomfort. Knowing all about corns and calluses can help you make the right health decision in the event these skin growths become bothersome.

Understanding corns and calluses: The basics

Corns and calluses are thick layers of skin that develop in areas that are subject to repeated friction or pressure, reports the National Institutes of Health (NIH). Corns usually develop on the toes, while calluses can develop on the hands or the bottoms of feet, adds the NIH.

According to the NIH, corns and calluses are not serious health problems but may cause bleeding and pain in some individuals. The NIH recommends treating corns and calluses by preventing friction or having the tissue removed by a doctor or dermatologist if they cause an infection or ulcer.

What is a corn? What is a callus?

Harvard Medical School describes a corn as an area of thickened skin located on the top or side of a foot or toe. The middle of a corn is known as the core, which is a dense knot of skin located at the spot subject to the greatest pressure or friction. Corns can be either hard or soft, adds Harvard Medical School.

A callus is an area of thickened skin located on your hand or on the sole of your foot. Unlike corns, which have thickened middle cores, calluses are evenly thick throughout. Corns and calluses form to protect your skin from damage caused by irritation such as prolonged rubbing and pressure, says Harvard Medical School.

What causes corns and calluses?

Most corns are caused by poorly fitting or overly tight shoes, says the NIH. Calluses are caused by prolonged rubbing, adds Harvard Medical School, such as from using a pencil, playing guitar, or playing tennis regularly. A foot callus may also be caused by tight or poorly fitting shoes, according to the NIH

What are the symptoms of corns and calluses?

Corns and calluses share many of the same symptoms. According to the NIH, symptoms include:

  • Areas of thick, hardened skin on the hands or feet
  • Dry and flaky skin
  • Pain or bleeding at the site of thickened skin
  • Difficulty walking or grasping an object at the site of thickened skin

Harvard Medical School adds that corns are usually located around the toes and may have a dense knot of skin in the middle of the hardened area. In comparison, calluses are flat, yellowish, hardened layers of dead skin.

When to call your doctor about a corn or callus

Most corns and calluses do not cause serious problems, but there are some cases that may require medical treatment. According to the NIH and Harvard Medical School, you should call your doctor about a corn or callus if:

  • You have diabetes and are experiencing problems with your feet.
  • Your corn or callus is not improving with self-care or medical treatment.
  • You continue to experience redness, warmth, pain, or drainage from the corn or callus.
  • You experience difficulty with activities such as walking or grasping objects due to the corn or callus.

Corns and calluses can be safely treated to reduce your pain and help you feel more comfortable. Your doctor or dermatologist can examine your corn or callus, talk to you about your symptoms, and recommend the best treatments for you. According to the University of Rochester, corns and calluses treatment may involve trimming the skin, applying salicylic acid, receiving cortisone injections, or having surgery to correct misaligned bones or joints.

How can I prevent corns and calluses?

According to the University of Rochester, corns and calluses can often be prevented by taking steps to avoid or remove the source of friction or pressure that is causing them. For example, the University of Rochester recommends wearing comfortable, properly fitting shoes to prevent calluses and corns on your feet.

Other steps you can take to prevent corns and calluses, according to the NIH and Harvard Medical School, include:

  • Wearing gloves to protect your hands during activities that cause friction, such as playing tennis, lifting weights, and gardening.
  • Cushioning shoes with moleskin to reduce pressure on the skin.
  • Wearing only shoes that have wide and deep toe boxes that leave plenty of room around the toes to reduce friction.

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