A corn or callus is a patch of hard, thickened skin on the foot that is formed in response to pressure or friction. Corns and calluses may be signs of an underlying foot disorder, such as joint deformities. People at high risk of corns and calluses include the elderly, anyone who stands for long periods of time, people with feet that roll inwards or with flat feet, and people who regularly wear ill-fitting shoes.
A callus is an area of hard, thickened skin on the foot that is formed in response to pressure or friction. When pressure is concentrated in a small area, a corn, which has a central core, may develop. If the pressure is not relieved, calluses and corns can become painful.
Common sites of corns and calluses are the ball of the foot, under the big toe, tips of toes and any bony prominence. ‘Soft’ corns may develop between the toes, where the skin is moist from sweat or inadequate drying. Sometimes, the pressure of the corn or callus may produce inflammation, which can result in pain, swelling and redness.
Symptoms of corns and calluses
The symptoms can include:
- Thickened patch of hard skin on the foot
- Hard, small bump of skin that may have a central core
- White and rubbery bumps of skin (‘soft’ corns)
- Pain when pressure or friction is applied to the area.
Some people are at higher risk
Anyone can develop corns or calluses, but some groups are particularly at risk, including:
- Elderly people – because ageing skin loses elasticity and fatty tissue
- People who spend a lot of time standing up – because of the continuous weight-bearing pressure on their feet
- People with feet that roll inwards (flat feet) – place excessive pressure on the ball of the foot beneath the big toe, and the inside of the heel
- People with feet that roll outwards (high-arched feet) –place excessive pressure on the outside of the foot
- A person with foot complaints (such as a hammer toe, bunions or arthritis) – because a bony prominence can rub against the shoe or neighbouring toes
- People who regularly wear shoes that are narrow, tight, ill-fitting or high-heeled.
Don’t try to treat corns and calluses yourself
The body protects skin tissues from pressure or friction damage by producing an area of hard skin so, unless the cause of the pressure or friction is found and removed, calluses and corns will continue to form. Over-the-counter treatments, such as corn plasters, can damage the healthy surrounding skin if used incorrectly. Don’t ever attempt to cut away or scrape a callus as there is a risk of infection if you accidentally cut yourself.
Treatment for corns or calluses
If you have corns or calluses, or think you may be developing them, see your podiatrist for treatment. Options may include:
- Identifying and removing the possible cause of friction and pressure
- Professional reduction of the callus or corn to relieve pain
- Customised padding to redistribute pressure
- If needed, permanent shoe inserts (orthoses) to offer long-term pressure relief
- Advice on appropriate footwear
- Advice on appropriate foot care, such as applying moisturiser daily.
Special advice for people with diabetes
Care of all foot problems is particularly important for people with diabetes. Be guided by your doctor or podiatrist, but general suggestions include:
- Foot care should be part of your daily routine. Look at and feel each foot for signs of injury including bruises, blisters, broken or cracked skin, hot or cold areas, corns and calluses, and discolouration. If your eyesight is poor, get someone else to check your feet for you.
- If you find a cut or break in the skin, wash the area with warm salty water, apply an antiseptic and cover with a clean dressing.
- Avoid treating corns and calluses yourself. Seek advice from a podiatrist.
Where to get help
- Australian Podiatry Association (Vic) – to find a podiatrist in your local area Tel. (03) 9286 1885
Things to remember
- A corn or callus is a patch of hard, thickened skin on the foot that is formed in response to pressure or friction.
- Common sites of corns and calluses are the ball of the foot, under the big toe, tips of toes and any bony prominence.
- Seek advice from a podiatrist regarding the most appropriate treatment for you.
You might also be interested in:
- Feet - relief for pain and injury.
- Foot care - podiatrists.
- Foot problems - treatments.
- Footwear for healthy feet.
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Fact sheet currently being reviewed.
Last reviewed: October 2011
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