Corns, Callus

The differences between corns and calluses

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The differences between corns and calluses The differences between corns and calluses The differences between corns and calluses

Have you got a hard patch of skin on your foot or toe? These are generally known as calluses or corns, with people often using the word interchangeably. However, while corns and calluses are similar, they are not the same. Understanding the difference between corns and calluses can help you prevent them from developing and aid in treating and recovering from these irritating skin complaints.

So, let’s look at what makes a callus different from a corn, why they occur on different parts of the body, and how we can treat them effectively to avoid discomfort and pain.

What is a callus?

A callus is a section of dead skin that has thickened over time due to repetitive friction or rubbing. They usually occur on the feet, as this is typically the source of most pressure and friction, but they can also occur on other parts of the body, such as the elbows, hands and knees. There are even action-specific calluses, such as those developed by violin players on their chin.

Calluses are usually yellowish or pale in colour and feel lumpy. However, because they consist of dead skin, they are usually less sensitive than other areas of skin. They are usually bigger than corns, with less defined edges, and typically form on bony edges where rubbing occurs, such as the areas around the toes, on the heels or the fingers.

What is a corn?

A corn, on the other hand, is a type of callus made from dead skin. They are smaller and usually circular, with a clearly defined centre that is either hard or soft. In general, smaller corns are harder and generally occur on the bony areas of the foot.

Softer corns tend to be whiter and more rubbery and can often appear like an open sore. These can occur in more sensitive areas such as between the toes or areas of moister skin where sweat can gather.

Signs and symptoms: corns vs calluses

The first sign that you have either a corn or callus is noticing a hard or raised bump. This will feel like a thick or rough skin area and may be a source of pain or tenderness. Once you have identified the source of the pain or hardness, a closer inspection should tell you whether it’s a corn or callus. Remember that calluses tend to be bigger and paler, with a more uniform colour but a less uniform shape. If the lump is smaller, rounder and has a defined centre, it is most likely a corn.

If either the callus or corn becomes very painful, feels warm to the touch, or leaks fluid, then there is a chance it has become infected, and you should seek medical advice.

Causes of corns and calluses

The main cause of any corn or callus is excessive pressure or friction on one area of the skin. There are several common causes of this kind of pressure, including wearing shoes that are either too small or badly fitting. Shoes with poorly placed seams can also be a source of irritation that can lead to corns.

Other common causes include not wearing socks, socks that fit badly or spending a lot of time walking around with bare feet – as this causes the skin to thicken to prevent injury. Any repetitive action, particularly practising a sport or musical instrument, can also cause calluses or corns to develop. This can include activities such as tennis, playing the guitar, and even cycling.

Tips for preventing corns and calluses

As always, prevention is better than cure. You can prevent calluses and corns from developing in the first place in several ways. These include wearing thick or cushioned socks, especially when exercising or physical activity, when pressure may be increased. You can also use cushioned insoles or heel pads in your shoes to reduce impacts. Choose comfortable and wide-fitting shoes to avoid rubbing on the toes. You can also moisturise or soak your feet to help keep your skin soft.

Treatments for corns and calluses

However, sometimes no matter what you do to prevent them, corns and calluses will develop regardless. Fortunately, there are various levels of treatment you can try to help ease the pain and irritation they can cause.

The first level of treatment is that which you can perform at home. This includes soaking corns and calluses in warm water for five to ten minutes each day and then using a pumice stone to file away the areas of hardened skin. Using a moisturiser on your feet can also help soften dead skin areas and reduce irritation. As mentioned above, wearing thick socks or comfortable shoes can also help limit the pressure and abrasion on corns or calluses that have developed.

The second level treatment is to use an over-the-counter corn or callus remedy. Those that contain salicylic acid or ammonium lactate can help soften the skin of a callus or corn and prepare it to remove dead skin with a pumice stone. You can also get dedicated corn and callus plasters that help to protect the area from pressure and prevent infection.

Lastly, if home remedies and over-the-counter products are not working and the corns and calluses are getting worse, or if they are red and appear infected, you need to seek medical advice. Your GP or foot specialist will be able to recommend further treatment options. Similarly, if you have diabetes, fragile skin, or circulation issues, it is always a good idea to ask your doctor.

If you want to prevent corns and calluses or are just looking for some effective relief from the pain and irritation, check out the range of COMPEED products that can help.