Corns and calluses

Definition

Corns and calluses are thick layers of skin. They are caused by repeated pressure or friction at the spot where the corn or callus develops.

Alternative Names

Calluses and corns

Causes

Corns and calluses are caused by pressure or friction on skin. A corn is thickened skin on the top or side of a toe. Most of the time it is caused by bad-fitting shoes. A callus is thickened skin on your hands or the soles of your feet.

The thickening of the skin is a protective reaction. For example, farmers and rowers get calluses on their hands that prevent blisters from forming. People with bunions often develop a callus over the bunion because it rubs against the shoe.

Corns and calluses are not serious problems.

Symptoms

Symptoms may include:

Exams and Tests

Your health care provider will make the diagnosis after looking at your skin. In most cases, tests are not needed.

Treatment

Preventing friction is often the only treatment needed.

To treat corns:

To treat calluses:

If an infection or ulcer occurs in an area of a callus or corn, the tissue may need to be removed by a provider. You may need to take antibiotics.

Outlook (Prognosis)

Corns and calluses are rarely serious. They should improve with proper treatment and not cause long-term problems.

Possible Complications

Complications of corns and calluses are rare. People with diabetes are prone to ulcers and infections and should regularly examine their feet to identify any problems right away. Such foot injuries need medical attention.

When to Contact a Medical Professional

Check your feet carefully if you have diabetes or numbness in the feet or toes.

Otherwise, the problem should resolve with changing to better-fitting shoes or wearing gloves.

Call your provider if:

References

American Diabetes Association. Standard of medical care in diabetes-2017 abridged for primary care providers. Clin Diabetes. 2017;35(1):5-26. PMID: 28144042 www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/28144042.

Murphy GA. Lesser toe abnormalities. In: Azar FM, Beaty JH, Canale ST, eds. Campbell's Operative Orthopaedics. 13th ed. Philadelphia, PA: Elsevier; 2017:chap 83.


Review Date: 5/14/2017
Reviewed By: Linda J. Vorvick, MD, Clinical Associate Professor, Department of Family Medicine, UW Medicine, School of Medicine, University of Washington, Seattle, WA. Also reviewed by David Zieve, MD, MHA, Medical Director, Brenda Conaway, Editorial Director, and the A.D.A.M. Editorial team.
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