1. What are Corns?
Evolving from a four-legged creature, humans learned to stand on two legs and walk upright comfortably and efficiently some 65 million years ago. And, it was this ability that differentiated the once ape-like humans from other primates. Who would have imagined then that standing/walking on two legs would come at a cost?
When we stand/walk, our entire body weight is carried on our feet, first on the heel, followed by the balls of the feet. The skin on the ball is thicker than that on the other parts of the foot, in order to withstand just this pressure. However, when the pressure exceeds the normal limit, our feet fall prey of corns and calluses, due to the friction of the skin rubbing against the shoe, bone or the ground.
Corms and calluses appear as a thick, hard patch or a bump on the skin. Having corns and calluses is actually very common. They are our feet’s protective response to friction. They become a cause for concern only when the affected area becomes dry and flaky, and you experience pain or tenderness in the affected area.
Corns appear as small circles of thick skin. Although they can occur anywhere, they most often develop on the soles of the feet and on the top and sides of toes. They are caused by friction or pressure over bony areas. Corns can either be hard or soft. Other types of corns that may occur on the feet are seed corns, vascular/neurovascular corns and fibrous corns.
Calluses too are hard, rough areas of skin that may develop on the feet, usually under the skin of balls of the feet or around the heel area. This is a painful condition, and the affected area is often yellowish in colour. In comparison with corns, calluses are extended or large, with non-uniform edges. They also aren’t as sensitive to the touch as corns.
Having calluses on the soles of the feet is an indication of a poor walking style, ill-fitting shoes or a bone deformity. Some people, especially the elderly, have skin with the less fatty tissue, which makes them more prone to callus formation.
2. What Causes Corns?
Wearing poorly fitted shoes is the main cause of corns. When you wear loose-fitting shoes, the foot tends to slide and rub against the inner surface, causing friction, which results in corns. Many people opt for shoe designs that tend to place excessive pressure on a certain area of the foot, which also leads to corns/calluses. Women who are fond of wearing high heels that squeeze the toe are at higher risk of this foot condition. Corns can be a symptom of other leg problems too, like hammer toe and bunions.
Calluses can be caused by age, dry skin, reduced fat padding, arthritis and playing sports or participating in activities like walking barefoot and running in a way that places repeated pressure on a certain area of the foot.
3. What are the Treatments for Corns?
When you have corn in a foot, you need to see a podiatrist. However, before consulting a doctor, you can try some remedies at home, to allow the corn/callus to heal itself. In case, the corn/callus has pus or clear liquid, don’t waste time and see a podiatrist immediately.
The first thing to do is to address the cause of pressure or friction that led to the corn or callus. If you don’t do that and the problem persists, the skin will keep on getting thicker and more painful. For women, addressing the problem might mean replacing those high heels with comfortable, flat footwear. After this, you need to get the thickened skin removed.
There are corn plasters available at local pharmacies, which can prevent the corn from worsening. However, if you have diabetes or fragile skin, corm plasters may not be a good idea, since they affect blood circulation.
A corn can also be a symptom of an underlying problem. Before going for treatment, always check with the podiatrist. They’ll identify the cause and suggest the appropriate treatment, based on your specific needs. They often prescribe orthoses/shoe alterations or insoles to minimise friction and pressure.
To remove the thickened skin, you can use mild over-the-counter products that contain salicylic acid. This softens the skin so that it can be easily removed. Afterwards, gently rub off as much of the corn/callus as you can, with a soft brush or coarse towel.
In case it is painful for you to do it on your own, see a podiatrist. A podiatrist will use a scalpel, handled with precision, in a painless procedure, to remove the thickened skin. This will give you significant relief from the pain and discomfort. Follow the foot care routine and exercises the podiatrist recommends.
4. How Can I Help Prevent Corns?
Corns are a painful skin condition that affects can your mobility and quality of life. Here are a few things some dos and don’ts to prevent corns.
- Choose shoes that fit properly
- Try calf stretches
- Follow a good foot care routine
- Thoroughly dry your feet after washing them
- Keep your feet moisturised with foot cream
- Don’t try to cut the corn or callus yourself.
- Don’t shop for footwear in the evening, since feet tend to swell as the day goes by
- Avoid wearing heels to prevent excess pressure on the front of the foot
- Never take any kind of foot pain lightly.
5. When Should I see a Podiatrist?
Corns and calluses are painful and annoying skin conditions that can affect your daily life. They can be treated with different types of medicated products that pare down the dead, thickened skin chemically.
If the problem persists even after using medications, consult a podiatrist for the best guidance. The doctor will diagnose the corns and calluses, based on their appearance and history. In case, the corn/callus is mild, simply changing shoes or adding padding will suffice. However, if it is serious, the podiatrist will shave off the dead, thickened skin.
A good foot care routine is the key to preventing and treating corns and calluses.
To know more about this foot problem and its treatment options, visit Foot Corner.