Corns and Calluses

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Corns and calluses refer to thick layers of the skin that harden as a form of protective mechanism to prevent injury due to pressure and friction. Corns and calluses are more likely to occur in areas of the feet, toes, fingers and hands.

Corns and calluses may appear unpleasant but you do not require treatment if you are healthy and do not feel any discomfort. Most people can simply treat the condition by eliminating the cause of friction or pressure.

People with diabetes or any other condition may result in poor circulation in the feet may be at greater risk of complications associated with corns and calluses. In such cases, people must see their doctor to receive proper treatment for corns and calluses.

Signs and symptoms

Signs and symptoms of corns and calluses may include:

  • Thick, rough skin on affected areas
  • A hardened bump
  • Flaky, waxy or dry skin
  • Pain or tenderness under the affected regions of the skin

Corns and calluses are often treated as a single condition but they are not the same.

  • Corns. These are smaller than calluses with a hard middle which is surrounded by skin that is inflamed. Corns mostly occur in non-weight bearing regions of the feet such as the top of the toes; however, they may also occur in weight bearing regions. Corns can also occur between the toes and are often painful when pressed.
  • Calluses. These usually occur on the soles of the feet – mostly under the balls of the feet, the heel, the knees or your palms. Calluses rarely cause any discomfort and may vary in shape and size – however, they are usually larger than corns.

When to seek medical help

See your doctor if corns and calluses become inflamed or painful. People with poor circulation or diabetes should also see their doctor before considering any alternative treatment methods or self-treatment because even mild injuries may result in an infected sore or foot ulcer, which is often difficult to heal.


Treatment primarily involves preventing recurrent movements that may result in corns and calluses. People with corns and calluses must wear appropriate shoes and use protective pads along with self-care methods to treat symptoms.

If symptoms for corns and calluses persist or cause discomfort even with self-care methods, you may require medical treatment to promote healing.

  • Trimming. Your health care provider may remove the thickened skin or trim down a large corn using a scalpel – avoid doing this procedure yourself as you may cause an infection.
  • Salicylic acid. 40% salicylic acid patch will be applied on the affected region. Salicylic acid is available over-the-counter as well. Apply the patch as directed by your doctor. You may also be required to smooth the affected region using a nail file or a pumice stone before applying a fresh patch each time.
  • Shoe inserts. People with underlying deformities of the foot may be directed to wear prescription custom-made orthotics or shoe inserts to prevent foot injuries such as corns and calluses.
  • Antibiotics. Your doctor may apply antibiotic medication on the affected region to prevent infection
  • Surgery. Surgery is rarely required, however, friction may be caused by the improper alignment of the bones of the foot which can be corrected through surgery.

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