Corns and Calluses are hardened, thick layers of skin that form on feet and hands. Corns and calluses form when the skin must protect itself from pressure and friction. Healthy individuals only need to remove corns or calluses if they cause discomfort. Eliminating the source of pressure or friction is enough to get rid of the corns and calluses. But for people with diabetes or other issues with blood flow to the feet, there can be complications. In that case, it’s best to consult a doctor.
If you have patches of thick, rough skin, raised, hardened bumps, pain or tenderness under the skin, or dry, flaky, waxy skin, you might have corns or calluses.
Corns are smaller than calluses; they also have a hard center surrounded by inflamed skin. They tend to form on the parts of the foot that don’t bear weight, such as the tops and sides of the toes. But they can sometimes form on weight-bearing areas. Corns are painful if pressed.
Calluses aren’t usually painful. They often form on the soles, under the heel/ball, on the palms, and on the knees. Calluses can vary wildly in size and shape.
When to See a Doctor
When corns and calluses become painful or inflamed, you should consult a doctor. If you have diabetes or poor blood flow, always call a doctor before self-treating, as even a minor injury can result in an infected sore.
Repeated friction/pressure on a specific area can cause corns and calluses to form. Common sources include:
Ill-Fitting Shores: Tight shoes or high heels can put pressure on your foot. Footwear that’s too loose can cause your foot to rub against the shoe. There can also be seams or stitches in the shoe that rubs against your foot.
Not Wearing Socks: Not wearing socks with shoes or sandals, or socks that don’t fit right can cause friction.
Instruments or Hand Tools: Activities like writing, using hand tools, or playing instruments cause repeated pressure that can form calluses.
These conditions can increase the risk of forming corns and calluses.
Bunions: Abnormal, bony bumps that form on the joint on the base of the big toe.
Hammertoe: Deformities that cause a toe to curl like a claw.
Foot Deformities: Some conditions, like bone spurs, can cause constant rubbing against footwear.
Lack of Hand Protection: Using hand tools without wearing gloves exposes your skin to friction.
Wear Roomy Shoes: If you can’t move your toes, your shoes are too tight. Get new shoes or have a shoe shop stretch any point that causes friction.
Use Protective Coverings: Felt pads, nonmedicated corn pads, or bandages worn over your feet can reduce friction. You can also use toe separators or place wool between your toes.
Wear Padded Gloves: Always use proper protection when working with tools. You can also try putting padding on the handles of your tools.
Doctors will examine the foot and check if the thickened skin is caused by corns and calluses, or by something else, like warts or cysts. They may suggest an x-ray if a physical abnormality causes the problem.
Treatment for corns and calluses consists of avoiding the actions that first caused them to develop. You can also help by wearing shoes that fit properly, using protective pads, and other self-care methods. If these actions don’t get rid of the problem, there are some medical solutions:
Trim Excess Skin: Doctors can use a scalpel to remove thickened skin or corns. Don’t try this at home.
Medication: Doctors can provide you with a patch that contains 40% salicylic acid, which does not require prescriptions. This also comes in gel form. The doctor may recommend that you use pumice stones, nail files, or emery boards to smooth the skin before applying a new patch.
Shoe Inserts: For people with foot deformities, doctors can prescribe custom padded shoe inserts to reduce friction.
Surgery: If the problem is caused by misaligned bones, your doctor might recommend surgery to realign the bones.
Lifestyle and Home Remedies
If you have diabetes or blood flow issues, consult a doctor before trying home remedies. If you don’t, here are some ways to get rid of corns and calluses.
Over-the-Counter Pads: Use pads to protect the area where the corn/callus developed. Be cautious with liquid removers or medicated pads; they contain acid which can irritate healthy skin.
Soaking: Soaking your hands or feet in warm, soapy water will soften the skin and make the corns and calluses easier to remove.
Thin the Skin: After or during bathing, rub the skin with a pumice stone, nail file, emery board, or washcloth to reduce the layers of thickened skin. Don’t use a sharp object, and don’t use a pumice stone if you have diabetes.
Moisturizing: Applying moisturizer to the skin will help keep it soft and prevent thickened skin from forming.
Wear Comfortable Footwear: Wear well-fitting, cushioned shoes or socks until the thickened skin disappears.