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What’s the Difference Between Corns and Calluses?

Corns and calluses are extremely common. While they often form in combination, they are, in fact, separate conditions that require different types of treatments. Let’s examine each problem on its own (which is exactly what will happen when you show your feet to your podiatrist!)

What are Corns?
Corns are just circles of thick, hardened skin. They typically develop on your toes. Another common spot for corns is the soles of your feet.

What are Calluses?
Calluses are hard, rough patches of skin. They often appear to have a yellow tinge. Calluses are usually found on the soles of your feet, but they may pop up in other areas, like your hands. Calluses cover a much larger area of skin than corns, typically.

What do corns and calluses have in common?
Corns and calluses are often mentioned in one breath because they share a common cause: pressures in your foot. When people walk or run with uneven gaits, a corn or callus may develop on the foot in spots that bare more pressure than other areas.

Rubbing, especially from ill-fitting foot wear, may also contribute to the formation of corns and calluses. People with bonier feet, especially older individuals who’ve lost some cushioning in their skin, are more vulnerable to both corns and calluses. Finally, dry skin can make people more vulnerable to both of these conditions.Orthotics are one way we can intervene and stop the pressure causing your corn or callus

Treatment Options: What’s the Same and What’s Different?
A word of caution that applies to both corns and calluses: you should never attempt to get rid of corns or calluses on your own, at home. While it may be tempting to take a pair of scissors or a razor to your feet and shave or cut off the rough spots—just don’t. Not only will you open yourself up to infection, because these areas may be desensitized, and because they’re located in hard-to-see-and-reach areas, you may go too far with your removal process. The last thing you want to be dealing with in your home is a failed excision that’s gone too deep: ouch!!!

If you are truly determined to self-treat these conditions, the only thing I can recommend is a proper moisturizing routine. After every shower, dry your feet thoroughly then carefully apply moisturizer to the affected areas.  There are some great over-the-counter creams that may lessen the discomfort of corns and calluses, or even mitigate their appearance, but don’t be fooled: applying cream will never get rid of these problems completely. If you want to cure a corn or callus, guess what you’ll need to do? See a podiatrist!

Treating Corns and Calluses in our Office
Once you see your podiatrist, we can get down to the business of addressing the cause of your problem. If it’s too much pressure, I can help by adding padding or orthotics to your existing footwear. I may also recommend a change in footwear if I think the shoes, not your unique gait, is causing the problem.

I will also check you for bunions or hammertoes, to see if structural issues are to blame for added pressure on your feet. We may need to address outside factors before treating your corns and calluses—it’s simple. If we don’t solve the root cause of your problem, your corn or callus will keep coming back, again and again.

Finally, once we’ve solved all contributing factors, we can address the rough patches of skin themselves. The removal process will depend on how large an area is affected and how much discomfort you are experiencing. The key point, however, is this: deciding how to treat your corn or callus is a discussion best had with your doctor. If you try to determine a treatment plan on your own, you will likely walk away frustrated, wounded and still in pain!

Brandt R Gibson, DPM
Podiatrist, Neuropathy Doctor, Father of 11 and Founder of Mountain West Foot & Ankle Institute

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