Corns and Calluses - Meaning, Treatment, Symptoms & Diagnosis

Corns and Calluses

Authored by DesiMD Doctor on 3 Jul 2015 - 14:06.


Thick and hardened layers of skin that are produced by the skin in response to pressure and friction are called corns and calluses. They are usually developed on feet, toes, hands or fingers. They are not usually seen until they are painful. Treatment is needed only if they cause discomfort or else they disappear only by eliminating their cause.

Corns and calluses are usually painful. The common sites for corns are:

  • On the sole
  • On the sole of toe or small toe
  • In between the toes

Friction and pressure developed from repetitive actions cause the calluses and corns to develop. Some of the activities resulting such friction and pressure include:

  • Not wearing socks: Wearing sandals and shoes without socks causes friction on the feet 
  • Wearing ill-fitting shoes: Wearing tight shoes and high heels can cause compression of some areas of the foot and wearing loose footwear causes repeated sliding and rubbing of the foot against the footwear.
  • Playing instruments or using hand tools: Repeated use of hand tools or playing instruments may result in pressure leading to formation of calluses

Symptoms of corns and calluses include the following:

  • A thick, rough area of skin
  • Tenderness or pain under your skin
  • A hardened, raised bump
  • Flaky, dry or waxy skin

Diagnostic tests used to diagnose calluses and corns include:

  • A physical examination: This is the physical examination of the feet for thickened skin, warts and cysts.
  • An X-ray: An X-ray of the hand or foot may be recommended to check if any physical abnormality is causing the callus or corn.

The factors which may increase the risk of corns and calluses are:

  • Abnormalities in anatomy of the feet or toes;
  • Bunions
  • Poorly fitting footwear
  • Using tools, equipment or instruments without wearing hand gloves
  • Certain occupations such as garden workers or farmers.

Medical treatment is required only when it gets painful and does not reduce by avoiding the cause.

  • Trimming excess skin: The extra thickened skin or a large corn can be cut using a scalpel. It should not be done by self because it increases the risk of infection.
  • Callus-removing drug: The doctor may apply a patch containing 40 percent salicylic acid. These patches can also be obtained without a prescription. For larger areas, salicylic acid gel may also be prescribed.
  • Reducing infection risk: An antibiotic ointment may also be prescribed to reduce the risk of infection.
  • Shoe inserts: Custom made shoe inserts may be prescribed for patients having foot deformities which are causing corns or calluses.
  • Surgery: Surgery is recommended in rare cases to correct the bone alignment which is causing the friction.

Preventive measures which should be followed are:

  • Wear shoes which are neither loose nor tight.
  • Wear protective gloves while using tools which cause friction.
  • Place cotton wool in between toes while wearing tight shoes.
*Disclaimer This is not medical advice. The content is for educational purposes only. Please contact your doctor for any health care issues.