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Skin Problems & Treatments Health Center

Calluses and Corns - Topic Overview

What are calluses and corns?

Calluses and corns are areas of thick skin caused by pressure or friction. They may cause pain when you walk or wear shoes.

Calluses usually form on your hands or feet. They usually don't need treatment.

Corns have an inner core that can be soft or hard. Soft corns are found between your toes. Hard corns may form on the tops of your toes. Corns caused by poorly fitting shoes will often go away with the right size shoe.

See pictures of callusescamera.gif and hard and soft cornscamera.gif.

What causes calluses and corns?

Calluses and corns are caused by repeated pressure or friction on an area of skin. The pressure causes the skin to die and form a hard, protective surface. A soft corn is formed in the same way, except that when sweat is trapped where the corn develops, the hard core softens. This generally occurs between toes. Calluses and corns are not caused by a virus and are not contagious.

Repeated handling of an object that puts pressure on the hand, such as tools (gardening hoe or hammer) or sports equipment (tennis racquet), typically causes calluses on the hands.

Calluses and corns on the feet are often caused by pressure from footwear. Walking barefoot also causes calluses.

Calluses and corns often form on bunions, hammer, claw, or mallet toes, or on the bumps caused by rheumatoid arthritis. Calluses and corns on the feet may also be caused by repeated pressure due to sports (such as a callus on the bottom of a runner's foot), an odd way of walking (abnormal gait), or a bone structure, such as flat feet or bone spurs (small, bony growths that form along joints).

What are the symptoms?

You can tell you have a corn or callus by the way it looks. A callus is hard, dry, and thick, and it may appear grayish or yellowish. It may be less sensitive to the touch than surrounding skin, and it may feel bumpy. A hard corn is also firm and thick. It may have a soft yellow ring with a gray center. A soft corn looks like an open sore.

Calluses and corns often are not painful, but they can cause pain when you are walking or wearing shoes. And they may make it hard for your feet to fit in your shoes. Any type of pressure applied to the callus or corn, such as squeezing it, can also cause pain.

How are calluses and corns diagnosed?

Your doctor will look at the calluses or corns that are causing problems for you. He or she may also ask you questions about your work, your hobbies, or the types of shoes you wear. An X-ray of the foot may be done if your doctor suspects a problem with the bones.

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WebMD Medical Reference from Healthwise

Last Updated: November 21, 2011
This information is not intended to replace the advice of a doctor. Healthwise disclaims any liability for the decisions you make based on this information.
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