Corns and calluses are thick layers of skin that form in areas of friction or irritation, most commonly between toes or on the tops or bottoms of toes, over bone spurs, or in the ball of the foot near the area where the toes join the foot. Calluses and corns are typically caused by shoes that don't fit properly or by an inherited foot shape or gait issue. Calluses may sometimes be associated with sacs of fluid that form to protect the foot. Corns have a central core that tends to appear lighter than the surrounding tissue and is usually very painful. Both corns and calluses can cause considerable pain when wearing shoes and while walking, even when barefoot.
Professional treatment can include careful trimming of corns and calluses to remove dead skin and resolve painful pressure points, as well as cortisone injections to help resolve inflammation. When corns and calluses are a recurrent issue and conservative treatment is unsuccessful, surgery is recommended and custom orthotics may be prescribed to support the foot and help prevent areas of pressure and friction.
It's not a good idea to use over-the-counter products to treat corns and calluses. Many of these products rely on weak acid solutions to slough off dead skin, and they can wind up irritating and even burning the surrounding healthy tissue, causing additional problems. Cutting or trimming a corn or callus at home can cause infections that can spread to other areas of the foot.
The best way to prevent corns and calluses from returning once they've been professionally treated is to wear shoes that fit properly and provide adequate support, or to wear custom orthotics when needed to address gait issues or foot shapes that are associated with an increased risk for corn and callus development.
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