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Corns and Calluses

Corns and calluses are thick, hardened layers of skin that develop when your skin tries to protect itself against friction and pressure. Corns and calluses can be unsightly.

For most people, simply eliminating the source of friction or pressure makes corns and calluses disappear. However, if you have diabetes or another condition that causes poor circulation to your feet, you’re at greater risk of complications from corns and calluses. Seek your doctor’s advice on proper care for corns and calluses if you have one of these conditions.

Treatment

Your doctor will examine your feet and rule out other causes of thickened skin, such as warts and cysts. Your doctor may also request an X-ray to see if a physical abnormality is causing the corn or callus.

Treatment for corns and calluses usually involves avoiding the repetitive actions that causes them to develop. Wearing properly fitting shoes, using protective pads and other self-care measures can help resolve them.

If a corn or callus persists or becomes painful despite your self-care efforts, the following medical treatments can provide relief:

  • Trimming. Your doctor can pare down thickened skin or trim a large corn with a scalpel, usually during an office visit.
  • Salicylic acid. Additionally, your doctor may apply a patch containing 40 percent salicylic acid. He or she will let you know how often you need to replace this patch, and may recommend that you use a pumice stone or a metal nail file to smooth away the dead skin before applying a new patch. Salicylic acid is also available in a topical form for large areas.
  • Antibiotic medication. Your doctor may also suggest applying an antibiotic ointment to reduce the risk of infection.
  • Shoe inserts. If you have an underlying foot deformity, your doctor may prescribe custom-made padded shoe inserts (orthotics) to prevent recurring corns or calluses.
  • Surgery. In some instances, your doctor may also recommend surgery to correct the alignment of the bone causing the problem.