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Corn and Calluses (Callouses)
Corn and calluses are thick, hard layers of dead skin that usually form under the feet, at the sides of the toes or above the toes.
A callus is a more diffused thickening of the skin whereas a corn is a thicker and more focused.
A corn is often cone shaped, and can extend deep into the skin. It may also be surrounded by callus.
Corns are usually hard, but those that occur between the toes may be kept soft by moisture in the area.
People who play stringed musical instruments like the guitar and violin may also have calluses forming on their fingers, and, in the case of violinists, at the neck where the violin is placed.
Likewise, farmers and rowers tend to have corn and calluses on their hands.
This indicates one thing – corn and calluses are caused by excessive pressure / friction on the skin.
It means that they are not a problem in themselves. They are symptoms of a deeper problem – excessive pressure.
The Chiropodist | Podiatrist
Rosalie Q. Tio
Podiatrist, Member of the Institute of Chiropodist and Podiatrists
Chiropodist, International College of Biomechanics, Australia
In fact, corn and calluses are the body’s way of naturally protecting us against more serious problems, such as blisters and sores. So unless the deeper problem is solved, corn and calluses will always form.
This is why many people who try to remove corn and calluses by themselves find that they keep growing back, often within a matter of days.
Such self-treatment of corn and calluses is NOT RECOMMENDED.
Injury, in the form of cuts and wounds, can occur and this can be highly dangerous.
People with diabetes, in particular, will find that foot wounds take a long time to heal. In extreme cases, such wounds do not heal at all. but worsen until the foot needs to be amputated.
It is therefore vital that people with diabetic foot seek professional diabetes foot care from a chiropodist / podiatrist.
However, even ‘regular’ people without diabetes are strongly advised not to try remove corn and calluses themselves.
Those who seek chiropody / podiatry treatment for the removal of corn and calluses will also find that they take a longer time to form back.
This is because chiropodists / podiatriasts are trained – and they have the proper tools – to remove corn and calluses evenly and there is no friction or uneven pressure.
As corns and callus are symptoms of underlying problems, self treatment should follow a proper diagnosis of the underlying condition and advice on how to best manage it.
Although corn and calluses are basically caused by excessive pressure, this pressure can be due to a number of factors, such as:
Improper footwear, especially tight fitting shoes;
Toe deformities, such as hammer toes – whereby the top of the hammer toe presses against the shoe
Imbalanced or abnormal gait (way of walking) that results in uneven pressure on different parts of the feet. These are called biomechanical or gait abnormalities.
Professional chiropractic / podiatric treatment will include attempts to correct these causes.
For example, you may be advised on the proper selection of shoes, or you may be asked to wear orthotic shoes or prescription orthotic insoles to balance up the pressure of your gait.
In some cases, surgery may be recommended to correct bone deformities that cause excessive pressure on the foot.
At the same time, your chiropodist / podiatrist will remove as much as possible of the corn and calluses by shaving and ‘polishing’ the affected areas.
Your footcare professional may also provide some padding to ease the pain and the pressure.
Corns and calluses are generally not considered a serious medical problem, but they can be extremely painful. And the pain will worsen as the corn and calluses become harder.
One possible complication is that, after a while, the body will start treating it as a foreign object. This can then lead to the development of an ulcer, followed by infection.
For people with diabetes – as well as old people – with poor blood circulation and damaged nerves in the feet, such infection can become very serious.
They may take an extremely long time to heal. In the worst case, they don’t heal at all, and spread until the entire foot is infected and needs to be amputated.
So don’t take your corn and calluses too lightly. There is no need to bear with the pain as, in most cases, they can be solved. And if you have diabetes or if your blood circulation is poor for whatever reason, you need to be extra careful.
Do not use corn plasters, corn paint and other corn removal medication. They only treat the symptoms, but not the underlying problem that cause them.
These medications contain strong chemicals that can damage your skin.
The chemicals are supposed to ‘eat away’ the corn, but they do not differentiate between corn / calluses and normal skin.
Such medication are particularly dangerous for those with diabetic feet, and older people who suffer from poor blood circulation.
They can lead to the formation of ulcers which, if not healed, can cause serious infection that requires the entire foot to be amputated.