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Understanding Corns and Calluses -- Diagnosis and Treatment

How Do I Know If I Have a Corn or Callus?

To find out whether a hard patch of skin is a callus or a wart, your doctor will scrape some skin off the affected area. 

Warts bleed in a characteristic pattern. Calluses do not; they just reveal more dead skin. 

Understanding Corns and Calluses

Find out more about corns and calluses:

Basics

Symptoms

Diagnosis and Treatment

Prevention

Warts are viral and require specific treatment. Most calluses are corrected by a variety of measures, including a change in shoes, trimming of the calluses, and sometimes surgery.

What Are the Treatments for Corns and Calluses?

Most corns and calluses gradually disappear when the friction or pressure stops, although your doctor may shave the top of a callus to reduce the thickness. Properly positioned moleskin pads can help relieve pressure on a corn. Most foot doctors discourage the use of over-the-counter salicylic-acid corn remedies. When applied improperly, these corn "plasters" can create a chemical skin burn in healthy tissue around the corn and cause infections and ulcers (which is a hole through the skin) in patients with diabetes, poor circulation, or numbness in their feet.

Oral antibiotics generally clear up infected corns, but pus may have to be drained through a small incision.

Moisturizing creams may help soften the skin and remove cracked calluses. Apply the moisturizing cream to the callus and cover the area overnight with a plastic bag or a sock -- but only if instructed to do so by your doctor. Then gently rub off as much of the callus as you can with a coarse towel or soft brush. Using a pumice stone first to rub off the dead skin from a callus after a bath or shower and then applying moisturizing cream can also be effective.

There are also stronger creams containing urea that might be more effective, but don't use these unless recommended by your doctor. Don't bother with hydrocortisone creams, which only help with rashes and itching and may not be needed for calluses. 

You can consider surgery to remove a plantar callus, but there are no guarantees that the callus won't come back. A conservative approach is best initially. Keep the feet dry and friction-free. Wear properly fitted shoes and cotton socks, not wool or synthetic fibers that might irritate the skin.

If a podiatrist or orthopedist thinks your corn or callus is caused by abnormal foot structure, walking motion, or hip rotation, orthopedic shoe inserts or surgery to correct foot deformities may help correct the problem.

WebMD Medical Reference

Reviewed by Varnada Karriem-Norwood, MD on March 17, 2014

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