Calluses are thickened and hardened layers of skin that develop as a result of pressure or friction. It is the skin’s way of protecting itself from these external forces. Calluses may appear yellow, white, or grey in hue and can be accompanied by dry scaling skin and even fissures.
Because our feet take on a lot of stress (i.e. supporting our body weight and taking us wherever we need to go) calluses are commonly seen on the feet, particularly at the heels and balls of feet. Ill-fitting footwear can also cause calluses to form on the sides or the tops of toes. While calluses are generally harmless, when left untreated for a prolonged period of time, they can become very uncomfortable to walk on. Not only that, but calluses also reduce the skin’s elasticity and moisture, making it more likely to crack under shear forces.
What’s the difference between a callus and a corn?
The major difference between a callus and a corn is that a callus will cover a diffuse area on the skin and usually have a relatively equal thickness, whereas a corn occurs in a localized area and contains a deep centre of hardened tissue. This deep centre is called a nucleus and it goes so deep that it presses into the underlying layers of tissue causing pain.
Corns usually form at the site of a bony protrusion and thus are commonly seen on the tops of, at the tips of, or in between the lesser digits of the foot.
How to take care of your calluses and corns
You can help manage these thickened and hardened areas of skin by:
- Moisturizing daily with a urea based emollient (e.g. Dermal Therapy)
- Using a foot file or pumice stone to exfoliate the dead skin away
- Wearing proper footwear with a wide and deep toe box is highly recommended
When to seek medical attention for calluses and corns
- Brown or red pigmentation within the callus
- Leakage of fluid/pus
- Swelling and redness in the surrounding skin
Calluses and corns can build up so much that it cuts off the blood supply to the skin underneath it, causing the skin to break down.
This may result in an ulcer or wound which can become infected.
A Licensed Chiropodist will be able to remove all calluses and corns on the foot by sharp debridement. If necessary, he or she may also offload pressures from these pressure points via means of various foot supplies such as foot pads, toe wedges, or toe props, and even custom foot orthotics.