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In fact, nearly 10 percent of American women and five percent of the population as a whole suffer from unsightly, often painful corns and calluses that make their feet best suited for boots and other winter shoe styles. But by taking care of these problems now, women and men can enjoy the summer in sandals or barefoot.
Corns and calluses are caused by friction and pressure on the feet, either from wearing shoes that don’t fit properly or from conditions such as arthritis, trauma, bunions, or various deformities.
While most corns and calluses are unsightly, only some cause pain. If you are in good health, you don’t have to see a professional for corns and calluses unless they hurt or bother your walking. But, if you don’t like the way your feet look, if you are having pain or if you have certain medical conditions including diabetes, poor circulation or numbness in the feet, it’s important that you see a doctor or podiatrist who can evaluate the problem and help you remove the corns and calluses.
Most people do not get calluses or corns. People do get them when there is extra friction at some point during the gait cycle. Sometimes the cause is the structure of the foot, which could be adjusted with biomechanical and padding devices. Sometimes, surgical intervention is needed if the foot structure is out of the ‘normal’ range. Usually, this type of surgery is NOT cosmetic in nature but rather to make the foot better fit the shoe.
The yellow or gray, thick, hardened, dead skin on the feet known as calluses and corns form to protect the skin from pressure, friction and injury. While both calluses and corns are less sensitive to the touch than surrounding skin and may feel bumpy, the two are different. Both calluses and hard corns are hard, dry and thick, while a soft corn looks like an open sore. Corns that are neglected can turn into sores, which may become infected. Both corns and calluses are diagnosed during a physical exam; your doctor may want to x-ray the foot if he or she suspects a problem with the underlying bone, which can be treated by a podiatrist or orthopedic surgeon.
If you start to feel pain, the first thing to do is to remove the pressure or friction that is causing the problem, giving it time to heal. Wearing shoes that fit properly and using protective padding (which can be purchased at a drug store) to cushion the callus or corn do this. Podiatrists can make a specialized shoe for your foot to remove pressure. Don’t use liquid corn removers containing salicylic acid, as these can irritate healthy skin and promote infection. Soaking your feet in warm, soapy water can soften corns and calluses, making it easier to remove the thickened skin.
Rubbing corns and calluses with a pumice stone or washcloth during or after bathing to remove a layer of thickened skin, and following that with moisturizer can also be helpful. Never cut or shave calluses or corns yourself, as this could cause infection.
For stubborn, painful corns and calluses or those that you feel are particularly unsightly, see your dermatologist, who can evaluate the problem and remove the dead skin safely. It’s important to call your doctor if you cut a corn or callus, which could cause infection; if it oozes pus or clear fluid, both of which mean it is infected; or if you develop a corn or callus and you suffer from diabetes, heart disease or other circulatory problems. During an office visit, your doctor may trim the thickened skin with a scalpel, apply a patch containing salicylic acid and may recommend applying an antibiotic ointment to reduce the risk of infection. In severe cases, your doctor may recommend surgery to correct the alignment of the bones in your feet that are causing the problem.
If you have abnormalities on your feet or elsewhere on your skin, contact us today to schedule a consultation and discuss treatment options. At Advanced Dermatology, PC, our board-certified dermatologists are experts at treating many skin conditions. Our ten conveniently located offices welcome patients from Queens, Long Island – Nassau/Suffolk (Roslyn/Albertson, West Islip, Commack, East Setauket), New York City, Westchester County, Bergen County, NJ, Union County, NJ, and all surrounding areas.