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Corns and calluses

Written by Healthwords's team of doctors and pharmacists based in UK | Updated: 22.02.2023 | 2 min read
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Corns and calluses are areas of thickened and hardened skin caused by the repeated minor friction or rubbing of the skin, and they can often be painful. They tend to occur on the feet, but can occur on any area subject to repetitive friction, such as the hands if your job involves using certain tools or you play certain instruments. Ill-fitting shoes is usually the cause of those on the feet, as excessive rubbing on prominent areas of the skin causes it to become hardened.

Calluses generally consist of a broad area of thickened skin such as on the ball of the foot, whereas corns may present as a hard dense knot of skin on the top or sides of toes. Corns can also appear between the toes but are usually not as thick and hard.

Are they contagious?

Corns and calluses are not contagious and aren't usually a serious problem. They can often be remedied if they occur on the feet by wearing correctly fitted footwear or footwear with less abrasion between the feet and the inside of the shoes.

Caidr pharmacists' top tips

We recommend a trial of cushioning pads that can provide pain relief and prevent any further worsening of the corn or callus.

A foot filer or pumice stone can also be purchased to gently file away the excess hardened overgrown skin, which can reduce pressure and pain symptoms.

There are a number of exfoliating products containing salicylic acid, such as Dr Scholls Corn/Callus Remover liquid which can also help to gently chemically exfoliate the skin.

When should I see my doctor?

Your pharmacist can help you with initial interventions to help with the corn or callus. However, you should book a routine doctor's appointment if you have a corn or callus and have an underlying health condition, such as diabetes or a heart or circulation issue, or the area is becoming increasingly painful. If you have tried the interventions suggested above for three weeks without improvement, we recommend seeing a podiatrist or your doctor.

If there are any signs of infection – red, inflamed skin around the corn or callus, pus, severe pain, or fevers –then book an urgent doctor's appointment.

What will my doctor do?

Your doctor will ask you about your medical history, what symptoms you've been having, and what you've tried so far, and they will examine the corn or callus. They may also look at the alignment of the foot bones to check that's not adding to the problem.

They may refer you to a podiatrist who can cut away the corn or callus in a process called paring down. If there are any signs of infection, you may be prescribed a course of antibiotics.

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