Corns and calluses, also known as hyperkeratosis, are common conditions that we treat with great regularity in our offices. Corns and calluses can develop on any part of the foot and symptoms can vary from mild to moderate depending on the location and severity of the problem.
What are Corns and Calluses?
Corns and calluses are similar as they are both conditions in which the skin becomes thickened as a result of constant pressure. In the case of a callus, the skin thickening is more diffuse and commonly found on one or more of the toes or under the ball of the foot. A corn, on the other hand, is more of a localized thickening of the skin. Corns appear as a horny thickening of the skin with a cone-shaped mass pointing into the skin. In some cases, a corn may be surrounded by calluses along its outside edges.
It is important to understand that the development of corns and calluses is completely normal and it is the body’s way of protecting the skin that is constantly under pressure. That said, corns and calluses can develop to the point that they are painful and thereby treated the patient’s immune system as something foreign to the body.
What Causes Corns and Calluses?
There is only one cause for both corns and calluses – too much pressure being applied to the affected area. In some cases, the pressure can be accompanied by friction which helps acerbate the conditions. Common causes of corns and calluses on the feet include:
- Wearing footwear that is too tight
- Hammertoes and other toe deformities
- A bony prominence in the foot or toe
- Biomechanical or gait abnormalities that results in pressure being applied to certain parts of the foot
In most cases, the corn or callus is a symptom of another underlying problem or condition.
The Importance of Having Corns and Calluses Professionally Treated
If you have corns or calluses on your feet, then you should seek treatment by a foot and ankle surgeon as soon as possible. While these conditions are not normally painful early-on, they will worsen if treatment is not administered. As long as pressure is being applied to the affected area, the problem will not go away. In severe cases, painful and dangerous ulcers will develop in the area. Once an ulcer develops, the risk of infection increases and this can pose some serious complications for patients who suffer from diabetes, poor circulation, peripheral neuropathy, and other health conditions.
Some people with corns and calluses think to self-treat the conditions using over-the-counter products or by trimming away the hardened skin. We strongly urge our patients to avoid attempting self-treatment. The risks of doing so include potential dangerous infections and/or damage to the surrounding tissue. For the safest and most effective treatment, a patient should see a podiatrist.