Corns and calluses

Author: Dr Amanda Oakley, Dermatologist, Dept of Dermatology Waikato Hospital, Hamilton, New Zealand, 2005.

Corns and calluses are common skin lesions in which there is a localised area of thickened skin. A corn (clavus, heloma) is inflamed and painful. They are known as ‘soft corns’ (heloma molle) if the surface skin is damp and peeling, for example between toes that are squashed together. A callus (tyloma) is an area of painless hard skin.

What causes corns and calluses?

Corns and calluses are caused by response to friction and pressure. Repetitive injury results in the skin trying to protect itself from blistering. The basal epidermal cells (keratinocytes) increase in number resulting in thicker prickle cell layer and thicker stratum corneum on the skin surface.

The most common sites are on the hands and feet, but any area of skin may be affected. Examples include:

Thick skin on the entire palm or sole is known as palmar or plantar keratoderma. This term is also used for genetic disorders in which there are multiple areas of callus (punctate keratoderma).

See more images of corns ...

What is the treatment for corns and calluses?

The important thing is to relieve the pressure on the affected area of skin.

Reduce skin thickness.

To ease the discomfort of painful cracks (fissures):

It may be helpful to visit a podiatrist for treatment of calluses and corns on the feet.

Sometimes protruding bone has to be surgically removed by an orthopaedic surgeon, for example bunion repair.

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