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Understanding Corns and Calluses -- the Basics

What Is A Corn? What Is a Callus?

Corns and calluses can be annoying, but your body actually forms them to protect sensitive skin. Corns and calluses are often confused with one another.

Corns generally occur on the tops and sides of the feet. A hard corn is a small patch of thickened, dead skin with a central core. A soft corn has a much thinner surface and usually occurs between the 4th and 5th toes. A seed corn is a tiny, discrete callous that can be very tender if it's on a weight-bearing part of the foot. Seed corns tend to occur on the bottom of the feet, and some doctors believe this condition is caused by plugged sweat ducts.

Calluses can develop on hands, feet, or anywhere there is repeated friction -- even on a violinist's chin. Like corns, calluses have several variants. The common callus usually occurs when there's been a lot of rubbing against the hands or feet. A plantar callus is found on the bottom of the foot.

What Causes Corns and Calluses?

Some corns and calluses on the feet develop from an improper walking motion, but most are caused by ill-fitting shoes. High-heeled shoes are the worst offenders. They put pressure on the toes and make women four times as likely as men to have foot problems. Other risk factors for developing a corn or callus include foot deformities and wearing shoes or sandals without socks, which leads to friction on the feet.

Rubbing or pressure can cause either soft corns or plantar calluses. If you or your child develops a callus that has no clear source of pressure, have it looked at by a doctor since it could be a wart or caused by a foreign body, like a splinter, trapped under the skin. Feet spend most of their time in a closed, moist environment -- ideal for breeding bacteria. Staph infections can start when bacteria enter corns through breaks in the skin and cause the infected corn to release fluid or pus.

WebMD Medical Reference Reviewed by Lisa Bernstein, MD on March 19, 2015

Sources

SOURCES:

The Mayo Clinic.

Community Health Care Medical Library.

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