Corns and Calluses

What are corns and calluses?

Corns and calluses are areas of tough, thickened skin caused by pressure or friction. A callus is thickened skin on your hands or the soles of your feet. A corn is smaller than a callus and forms on the top or side of a toe.

What is the cause?

Corns and calluses can be caused by constant pressure or rubbing against your skin from problems such as:

  • Poorly fitting shoes
  • High arches in your feet that put pressure on the tips of your toes when you walk
  • A bony bump that forms on the joint at the base of the big toe (bunion) that pushes your skin against your shoe
  • Any injury or other physical problem that changes how you walk and how much weight you put on each foot

Calluses often form in other parts of the body to protect your skin. For example, calluses form on the hands of people who do farming or construction, those who play tennis or musical instruments, and on the soles of joggers’ feet.

What are the symptoms?

Symptoms may include:

  • A hard, tough area of thickened skin
  • Tenderness or pain under the skin

How are they diagnosed?

Your healthcare provider will ask about your symptoms and medical history and examine you. You may have an X-ray to check for bunions or other problems.

How are they treated?

Most of the time you don’t need to see your healthcare provider for treatment. You may need to see your provider if:

  • A corn or callus is painful.
  • A corn or callus cracks open.
  • A corn or callus becomes red, swollen, or has drainage

Your healthcare provider may:

  • Trim or remove the thickened skin
  • Recommend surgery if you have a foot or bone problem that causes the corn or callus to form
  • Fit you with a special insert for your shoe
  • Your provider can teach you how to prevent corns and calluses in the future and how to care for your feet every day at home. You may need to see a foot specialist (podiatrist).

If you have diabetes and have a corn or callus, tell your healthcare provider right away so you can get it treated safely. Do NOT try to trim or cut the corn or callus yourself because of the risk of infection.

How can I take care of myself?

Corns and calluses may go away in 1 to 4 weeks if you:

  • Stop the activity that caused a callus.
  • Stop wearing shoes that are causing problems. Try to find shoes that are soft, roomy, and comfortable. Avoid tight shoes or shoes with high heels.
  • Start a program to protect or soften the skin.
    • Ask your healthcare provider or pharmacist about salicylic acid liquid, gel, and plaster products you can buy to soften and remove dead skin.
    • Use a skin-softening, moisturizing cream to help the skin return to normal and to prevent cracking of the corn or callus.
    • Try a foot soak, foot file, emery board, or pumice stone designed to gently remove calluses. If you have a corn or a callus that is causing pain or preventing you from walking, see a podiatrist. Never use a razor or scissors to shave a corn or callus at home or at a nail salon.

How can I help prevent corns and calluses?

It may be hard to keep calluses from developing on your hands and fingers, depending on why they formed. In some cases, calluses may keep you from getting blisters caused by sports or other activities.

Corns and calluses on your feet are generally the most bothersome. You can avoid getting them or help prevent them from coming back if you:

  • Wear shoes that fit properly and are designed for comfortable walking, running, or standing.
  • Use a skin cream to keep the skin soft.
  • Work with your healthcare provider if you have a problem with the bones in your foot, or if you have diabetes or other health problems that can cause calluses to develop.
Developed by RelayHealth.
Adult Advisor 2015.1 published by RelayHealth.
Last modified: 2014-10-30
Last reviewed: 2014-10-30
This content is reviewed periodically and is subject to change as new health information becomes available. The information is intended to inform and educate and is not a replacement for medical evaluation, advice, diagnosis or treatment by a healthcare professional.
Copyright ©1986-2015 McKesson Corporation and/or one of its subsidiaries. All rights reserved.

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