Calluses and corns

Calluses and corns are areas of thick, hardened, dead skin that form to protect the skin and structures under the skin from pressure, friction, and injury. Calluses and corns become a problem when they grow large enough to cause pain.

Calluses generally form on the hands or feet, although they may form wherever there is pressure on the skin, such as on the knees or elbows. Calluses on the hands and feet of an active person are normal. They may appear grayish or yellowish, be less sensitive to the touch than surrounding skin, and feel bumpy.

Corns are usually found on or between toes. They have an inner core that can be soft or hard. A soft corn looks like an open sore.

Calluses and corns do not need treatment unless they cause pain. If they do cause pain, the treatment goal is to remove pressure or friction by wearing footwear that fits properly and using doughnut-shaped pads (such as moleskin) or other protective padding to cushion the callus or corn. The callus or corn can also be softened and the dead skin removed by using products such as salicylic acid. Sometimes a doctor may remove a callus or corn.

A person who has diabetes, peripheral arterial disease, peripheral neuropathy, or other conditions that cause circulatory problems or numbness should talk to a doctor before trying any treatment for calluses or corns.

Last Updated: December 6, 2009

Author: Bets Davis, MFA

Medical Review: Kathleen Romito, MD - Family Medicine & Alexander H. Murray, MD, FRCPC - Dermatology

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