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Treating and Removing Calluses and Corns

Calluses and corns are two closely related common foot problems characterized by the thickenings in the skin. They often hurt when pressure that is applied on them squeezes the blood supply out of the area.

Calluses are the thickened areas of the sole that are larger than corns with less well-defined edge. They are the skin’s natural way of developing a protective layer in places, typically over a bone, which are frequently used and receive a lot of pressure. People who walk around barefoot much of the time usually develop calluses on those parts of the soles of their feet that bear the most weight and pressure. Yet another common cause of developing calluses is the thinning of the fat layer under the foot as person ages.

The development of a callus can sometimes signal a physical problem elsewhere in the foot. An individual with high arches who develops calluses across the ball of the foot, for instance, may have tight heel cords, an abnormally angled heel bone or a tight arch ligament. Calluses that are subjected to excessive friction may cause a severe pain in one small area or burning feeling over the whole callus.

Treatments for Calluses

Common approach to treating calluses at home is to apply callus pads or cushions or some soft padding such as lamb’s wool or a piece of moleskin or felt to the painful area in order to relieve pressure on a callus and thus permit it to heal. It is necessary to position them properly, ensuring that the part of the foot with the callus becomes a cutout while the rest of the insert fills the bottom of the shoe. This allows to best relieve the friction on a callus. A podiatrist can ease the pain from a persistent callus by removing the hard skin layer and applying an appropriate skin cream. However, this procedure needs to be done every six to eight weeks and you should not try it at home. Special removal plasters and liquids, containing salicylic acid, can also be used to soften the dead skin, allowing the callus to be easily rubbed off. As a last resort, surgery can be considered for persistent calluses that have resisted other treatments. But even then the callus may return to the same spot. For a more lasting cure, projecting bone under the callus may need to be removed.

Corns are cone-shaped areas of thickened skin that are smaller than calluses. They may be hard or soft and may develop in areas on the toes where repeated friction and weight press skin against bone. Corns usually develop on the top of a toe or under a toe joint and in the space between two toes, mainly when shoes press the toes together. In women, a typical place for corns to occur is between the fourth and fifth toes. Loafers happen to be a frequent cause of corns that form on the tops of toes.

Treatments for Corns

In order to take care of a corn that is not too large or painful, soften it by soaking your feet properly in warm water for at least 10 minutes every day. Use a pumice stone or callus file to remove dead tissue. If the corn is not too large you can even use a rough-textured towel. Pat the foot dry and apply a corn-pad, corn-cushion or a piece of moleskin cut to size to the corn. Squeeze a little non-allergenic, non-acidic antiseptic cream, such as Neosporin or Bacitracin, into the hole of the corn-pad or corn-cushion to soothe the skin there. There are also over-the-counter corn-plasters, containing salicylic acid, suitable as all-in-one solution, though some doctors discourage from their use because of the risk of burning the skin. In addition, adjusting your shoes by adding a thin insole or raising the heel with a felt pad will enable you to slow the corn’s redevelopment.

The fastest way to remove a corn is surgery, though it is not always necessary. Instead, a podiatrist can apply an ointment that removes layers of the corn gradually over the period of several weeks. However, this procedure requires repeated visits to the doctor’s office. For a permanent solution, the podiatrist may need to remove underlying bone but this is more likely with calluses rather than corns. Wearing a rubber toe cap once the area has healed should prevent corns from coming back.