Corns and Calluses Overviews
Corns and calluses are likely the most common foot problems that affect millions of people in the U.S. These annoying, uncomfortable, and sometimes painful, areas of the foot and toes are described as a thickening of skin that reside under specific points of pressure on the foot (i.e. the small toe, the ball of the foot, etc.). The medical term for a corn is known as hyperkeratosis. While corns and calluses are often grouped together in terms of cause, symptoms and treatment, they are actually very different:
- A corn is known as a heloma. It presents itself as a dry, translucent bump that feels hard and tender. Corns can be hard (haeloma durum) or soft (heloma molles). Hard corns often form due to ill-fitting shoes, while soft corns tend to occur on the inside of toes and form when the ends of a toe are too wide and create friction with the toe next to it.
- A callus usually presents itself more as a flattened area of hard, thick skin and is diffused and develop over a particular area of the foot.
Corns and calluses develop as a natural mechanism for the foot to protect itself. Feet withstand a considerable amount of stress with daily ambulation. High heels, tight shoes, and exposure to the elements contribute to the formation of these skin problems.
Corns and Calluses Symptoms
Individuals that have a corn or callus will have a toe that has a thick, rough patch of skin. Corns will present themselves as a firm bump that is tender and painful. Both will have a patchy look that is dry and waxy in appearance.
Diagnostic Testing for Corns and Calluses
Corns and calluses can be easy to diagnose with the naked eye. It is important to obtain x-rays to determine if the skin condition is due to an underlying boney abnormality.
Treatment for Corns and Calluses
Non-Surgical Treatment for Corns and Calluses
Both corns and calluses can be treated without surgery. Some of these medications are sold over-the-counter, while stronger, more effective ones are by prescription. It is important to wear loose fitting shoes and eliminate activities that may aggravate the condition (such as running or jumping). Corns and calluses should not be cut on or shaved. Certain lotions and home remedies can be used to help soothe and prevent corns and callus from occurring again (such as soaking feet in solutions such as Borax, using cocoa butter on dry patches, wearing pads on the areas that are commonly afflicted, etc.).
Surgical Treatment for Corns and Calluses
In some cases, a corn can be removed with the underlying boney prominence which causes the deformity. At times a fusion of a nearby joint is needed to prevent recurrence. Calluses can be due to prominent bone on the bottom of the foot and shaving or shortening of the offending bone may be beneficial.
Post-Operative Care for Corns and Calluses
Post-op recovery depends on the procedure performed. For simple corn removal with bone the patient can typically weight bear immediately. For more significant bone work done on the bottom of the foot (usually for calluses) the patient may need to keep weight off of the foot for 3-6 weeks.