Corns and Callouses
Why do corns and callouses occur?
Corns and callouses usually build up on areas where there is increased pressure or friction on the foot. Sometimes this can be due to footwear rubbing on the foot, or due to the biomechanical structure of the foot. It is true that some people are more prone to developing corns and callouses than others, and the type of corn or callous a person develops is very individual.
What is the difference between a corn and a callous?
A callous usually covers a larger area than a corn and is of uniform thickness. These often develop on the ball of the foot or around the heel. They are sometimes painful but not always.
A corn occurs where there is a lot of pressure on one small area which causes the thickened skin to become deeper in the middle of the area creating a ‘core’. This ‘core’ can be very painful and is often described as feeling like there is a stone in the shoe. Corns often occur on the top of the toes, between the toes, or on the ball of the foot.
How are corns and callouses treated?
Corns and callouses can generally be removed on the spot by a podiatrist, and in most cases it is painless. There are over the counter treatments available which involve applying a bandage that contains an acid over the corn to try to soften the skin and make the corn to come off. These treatments are not usually recommended as they are not often effective and can cause damage to the surrounding skin.
People with diabetes or peripheral vascular disease are never advised to use them. A podiatrist can assess your foot to determine why the corns and callouses are occurring and advise any measures you may be able to take to prevent them such as changing footwear or using an orthotic device or insole.
Cracked heels (heel fissures) occur when the skin around the heel has become thickened and dry. The weight of the body on the heel when walking causes the thick dry skin to crack resulting in a painful wound. It is possible for these cracks to become infected so it is important to treat them as soon as they occur, and to use preventative treatment if you are prone to them.
If you have a heel fissure it is best to visit your podiatrist to have as much of the calloused skin around the fissure removed. This makes it easier for the skin to heal. It is also important to keep the area hydrated to aid healing. The use of a heel balm is recommended, and should be used regularly even after the fissure has healed to prevent recurrence. Paraffin wax treatments may be useful to keep the skin hydrated and prevent fissures, and regular visits to the podiatrist to have callous build up removed.
Tinea / Athlete’s Foot
The skin of the feet can be prone to fungal infections due to the warm moist environment in our shoes. Tinea infections present in different ways including, but not limited to: small fluid filled blisters on the bottom of the foot, dry peeling skin around the edge of the heels, pits in the sole of the foot or toes, or cracks and redness between the toes. Fungal infections are usually itchy, but are not always. They are very contagious and can be transmitted through water in shower bases, public swimming pools or through sharing footwear. Often it is unknown where the infection came from originally.
Treatment for Tinea
Broad spectrum topical anti-fungal creams available over the counter at pharmacies are usually very effective at treating tinea skin infections. Different creams use different active ingredients, so if you find one doesn’t work effectively it may be worth trying a different one as tinea can be caused by a variety of different fungal organisms. If you still have no success in treating it a skin scraping can be taken by a GP to confirm the type of organism, and specific treatment can be advised.