Corns and Calluses
What are Corns and Calluses?
Our feet play an important role in keeping us mobile. When we walk or stand, our feet carry the burden of our body weight as well a bearing the various pressures of movement and constraints of our footwear. Sometimes pressure placed on the foot becomes out of balance and extra friction falls on a particular area of the foot. When this happens, the body may respond to the pressure by producing thickened areas of skin. These hard patches of skin are called calluses and are part of the body's defence system to protect the underlying tissue. If the cause of the pressure is not relieved calluses can become painful.
If the pressure becomes concentrated in a small area, a hard corn may develop. Sometimes the pressure of the corn or callus may produce inflammation which can result in acute pain, swelling and redness. Sometimes soft corns may form between the toes where skin is moist from sweat or inadequate drying. These appear white and rubbery, they can also be caused by excessive friction.
Corns and calluses are most often found on the balls of the feet or the top of toes. They can also be found on heels and even along the sides of your toenails.
What causes corns and calluses?
Calluses and corns are generally symptoms of underlying problems and in some cases, early warning signals of more complex foot disorders. Because they are caused by continuous pressure in one particular area, they may indicate abnormalities or deformities in your bone structure, or the way you walk.
Often calluses and corns can be caused by ill fitting or inappropriate foot wear.
Who gets corns and calluses?
Almost everyone! In fact calluses and corns affect more people then any other kind of foot problem.
Some people have a natural tendency to develop calluses because of their skin type. For instance elderly people have less fatty tissue and elasticity in their feet and because of this lack of padding, calluses may form on the bottom of their feet. Also people who work in occupations that require them to spend a lot of time on their feet are prone to developing calluses.
How to treat calluses and corns
The most important thing to remember about treating calluses and corns is to never do it yourself with out seeing a podiatrist first. Because calluses are generally symptoms of other problems, it is important to have a podiatrist examine your feet to work out what could be causing the pressure.
Over the counter remedies such as corn ointments or plasters generally only treat the symptoms not the actual problem and its cause. Also they can easily damage the healthy skin surrounding the corn if not used properly. Commercial preparations should only be used with professional advice.
It is important that you never cut corns or calluses yourself. In the warm, moist confines of enclosed shoes, infection can easily develop and small cuts can quickly become serous wounds.
Preventing corns and calluses
The best way to prevent the development of calluses and corns is to pay attention to your feet, when you feel there is extra pressure on specific areas. Properly fitting shoes are essential, especially if you spend long periods of time on your feet. Its also important that you never wear other people's shoes. Using a moisturiser daily will help keep your skin supple.
Don't forget these problems are caused by pressure. If you feel you may be developing a callus or corn, or you already have one, the best thing to do is to seek advice and treatment from your podiatrist.
Seeing your podiatrist
Your podiatrist will not only recommend ways to relieve pain and get rid of the corn or callus, but can also help with isolating the cause and preventing reoccurring problems.
To treat painful corns, your podiatrist will gently remove some of the hard skin off the callus so that the centre of the corn can be removed.
To allow the callus to heal and prevent future cases, your podiatrist may redistribute pressure on the foot with soft padding and strapping or deflective appliances that fit easily into your shoes. For corns on the toes, small foam wedges are useful for relieving pressure on affected parts. For older patients suffering from calluses on the soles of the feet, extra shock absorption in shoes for the ball of the foot can help compensate for loss of natural padding.
Your podiatrist may also discuss the type of footwear most likely to cause corns and calluses. In some cases, special inserts known as orthoses may be prescribed to reduce excessive weight bearing forces on teh foot and provide long term relief.