Corns and calluses are common localized thickenings of skin. While a callus is an area of painless, thickened hard skin, a corn (clavus) is a painful thickening. Both corns and calluses are a result of excess friction and pressure. Repetitive injury/friction results in the skin trying to protect itself by thickening. The dead skin layer cells (keratinocytes) increases in number resulting in a thicker stratum corneum on the skin surface.
The most commonly affected areas are the hands and feet, especially corns between the 4th and 5th toes, and both calluses and corns on the plantar (underside) surface of the foot.
As far as treatment, it is important to relieve the pressure on the affected area of skin:
- Choose well-fitting and comfortable footwear.
- Use leather gloves when performing repetitive tasks.
- Apply a protective corn plaster or cushion to apply pressure more evenly around the affected area to reduce friction.
- Separate toes using soft cotton or a “corn pad” to relieve pressure.
- Purchase orthotics which can be made to measure.
Reduce skin thickness:
- Sandpaper, file or pumice the affected area after soaking in warm water for 10 minutes.
- Pare down the surface using a corn trimmer to remove the central core.
- Apply keratolytic creams (break down the excess keratin layer) that contain urea or salicylic acid or lactic acid.
If you have painful cracks (fissures):
- Apply a thick, lubricating ointment such as petroleum jelly and/or use a keratolytic product that contains urea or salicylic acid.
- Seal the surface with adhesive such as Liquid Bandaid or crazy glue.
- Cover with a thick adhesive plaster.
- Don’t walk around bare-foot or in flip-flops or open slippers.
In situations where there is a protruding bone such as a bunion, an orthopedic surgeon may need to do a surgical repair to reduce the protrusion and ultimately the callus associated with it.
Toronto Dermatology Centre is located in Toronto, Ontario, and serves men and women in North York, Vaughan, Richmond Hill, York, Aurora, Thornhill, Mississauga, Etobicoke, Scarborough, Pickering, Peterborough, Guelph, Kitchener, Waterloo, Hamilton, Oshawa, Barrie, downtown, midtown, uptown and all of Greater Toronto (GTA).