Calluses and Corns

Areas of thickened skin on the hands or feet caused by pressure or friction

  • More common in manual workers, joggers, and musicians
  • Age, gender, and genetics are not significant factors

If there is prolonged pressure or friction on a small area of the hand or foot, a patch of hard, thickened skin known as a callus may develop to protect the underlying tissues. Calluses are usually painless. They commonly occur on the hands of people such as musicians due to friction. The soles of the feet may become callused by the uneven pressure of body weight during walking.

Corns are patches of thickened skin that occur on the toes. They are usually due to wearing shoes that are too tight. The patches have a hard, clear centre and can be painful and persistent.

What is the treatment?

If you have a callus, you can remove some of the hardened skin by soaking the area in warm water for 10 minutes and then rubbing the callus gently with a pumice stone. Regular application of moisturizing cream may help to keep the skin soft. If possible, keep pressure off the area to aid recovery and to prevent recurrence of the callus. It is difficult to protect calluses that have developed on the sole of the foot, but well-fitting shoes may be of some help.

To relieve pressure on corns, wear shoes that do not press on the toes, and use corn pads (small rings of sponge that are available over the counter).

Your doctor or a chiropodist may reduce the size of a thickened area by paring it down with a scalpel, usually over several sessions. Once the source of pressure has been removed, calluses and corns should not recur.

Calluses or corns may become infected and ulcerated, especially in people with diabetes mellitus. If infection or ulceration occurs, do not try to treat the lesions yourself but get advice from a doctor or chiropodist.

From the 2010 revision of the Complete Home Medical Guide © Dorling Kindersley Limited.

The subjects, conditions and treatments covered in this encyclopaedia are for information only and may not be covered by your insurance product should you make a claim.

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