Corns and calluses are areas of hard, thickened skin that develop when the skin is exposed to excessive pressure or friction. They commonly occur on the feet and can cause pain and discomfort when you walk.
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Corns are small circles of thick skin that usually develop on the tops and sides of toes or on the sole of the foot. However, they can occur anywhere.
Women often get them if they've been wearing badly fitting shoes or spent a lot of time standing during the day.
Corns often occur on bony feet as there's a lack of natural cushioning. They can also develop as a symptom of another foot problem, such as a bunion (a bony swelling at the base of the big toe) or hammer toe (where the toe is bent at the middle joint).
Calluses are hard, rough areas of skin that are often yellowish in colour. They can develop on your foot, most often around the heel area or over the ball of the foot.
They can also develop on the palms of the hands and knuckles.
Calluses are larger than corns and do not have such a well-defined edge. As callused skin is thick, it is often less sensitive to touch than the surrounding skin.
Calluses develop when the skin rubs against something, such as a bone, a shoe or the ground. They often form over the ball of your foot because this area takes most of your weight when you walk. This is particularly the case in women who regularly wear high heels.
Excessive pressure on bony areas of the foot, badly fitting shoes and lots of walking or running are all possible causes of calluses.
Treating corns and calluses
Corns on feet will not get better unless the cause of the pressure is removed. If the cause is not removed, the skin will become thicker and more painful over time.
A corn is a symptom of an underlying problem. You should only treat it yourself when you know what has caused it and after you have spoken to a specialist about the best way to manage it.
Over-the-counter treatments for corns, such as corn plasters, are available from pharmacists. However, they do not treat the cause of the corn and may affect the normal, thinner skin surrounding the corn.
Corn plasters may not be suitable for certain people, such as those with diabetes, circulation problems or fragile skin.
As with corns, you should only treat calluses yourself after a foot health professional has identified the cause and advised you about treatment.