A callus is a hard patch of thickened skin you often find on your hands and feet. They develop in areas of high friction or pressure when your body thickens the skin in an attempt to prevent skin irritation or breakage.
Calluses are not usually painful unless subjected to continued pressure or friction, causing the skin to build up to a certain thickness, which may become very uncomfortable. You may also find that footwear does not fit as well when a callus is very thick in an area.
A corn is similar to a callus in that it is an area of thickened skin caused by pressure or friction, however, there are a few key differences that separate the two. A corn is smaller and has a painful "core" centre surrounded by inflamed skin. As the corn becomes thicker and bigger they develop internally in deeper layers of skin often causing pain and discomfort. It is common for them to appear on weight bearing areas of your skin, for example the soles of your feet. These corns are usually known as hard corns, where the skin has adapted and the painful "core" of the corn has become hard.
Corns can also develop on non-weight bearing areas of the foot, specifically between toes that are "squashed" together. This is known as a soft corn. They are whitish/grey in colour and are often softer and thinner in texture. These form where the surface of the skin can become damp and is inadequately drying, often due to sweating.
Corns and calluses develop because the skin's defensive response is to thicken when consistent pressure and friction is applied against the skin of the foot. This pressure or friction could be caused by:
A small corn or callus may not show any other symptoms apart from it's physical presence. A larger one though could cause pain and discomfort, which may affect your ability to walk comfortably. Corns and calluses often occur simultaneously, with the callus hiding the corn underneath.
If you notice any of the below symptoms, a callus may be present:
If you notice any of the below symptoms, a corn may be present:
Corns & calluses can easily be mistaken for other skin conditions such as plantar warts, ulcers or the presence of a foreign object in your body. That's why it's important to recieve a diagnosis from a podiatrist to ensure you're offered the right treatment.
Your podiatrist will take into account the history of your skin condition and conduct a physical examination to rule out any other conditions. In some rare cases, imaging may be required to rule out underlying conditions or foreign objects.
A podiatrist can easily remove your callus by debriding the thickened skin, however, unless you remove the cause of the callus, it will continue to return every 4-8 weeks.
As well as debridement, your podiatrist may administer or recommend a number of the following treatments:
Then offloading the sites of high friction and/or pressure through:
Treating a corn is very similar to treating a callus. Our podiatrists would recommend a combination of the above treatments as well as an in-clinic procedure where the corn, particularly the painful core, would be 'scooped out' with a scalpel, removing that 'walking on a rock' feeling.
We do not recommend trying to remove the corn or callus yourself as you could damage the surrounding healthy tissue or blood vessels resulting in pain, infection and scarring.
There are a number of approaches you can take to prevent yourself from getting corns and calluses.