Imagine walking across slightly rough ground in your bare feet. After a while, the surface would most likely begin to irritate your skin. If you were to pull on slippers, however, even if the soles were thin, that extra layer would protect your feet. When your lower limbs are experiencing a lot of pressure and friction in one area, your body tries to add that protective layer naturally. What develops become corns and calluses.
When your feet experience a lot of pressure and friction, especially from shoes, the body does what it can to protect itself. It builds up layers of dead skin cells, forming a hardened area. Usually the affected spot is less sensitive than the tissue around it. While this does offer some degree of protection, it can also backfire—the thickened area presses into the tissues underneath and causes discomfort.
Even though both corns and calluses are formed this way, they are different. Corns are small and usually circular or cone shaped. They can have a hard or soft core, which usually determines how uncomfortable they are. They develop in non-weight bearing areas, especially on top of or in between the toes. Calluses are large and flat. They appear in areas that bear weight, so the heel and ball of the foot are particularly susceptible. They’re usually grey or brown in color. Although both of these can be fairly harmless, they can make wearing shoes uncomfortable. They can also crack when they are dry, creating an opening for infections.
Treating and Preventing
You can eliminate your calluses or corns conservatively. More importantly, though, is determining what caused them to develop and remedying the source, so the skin doesn’t build up like that again. Dr. Evan Merrill and Dr. Adam Gerber will examine your foot to see what could be causing the friction and pressure. Then they can help you carefully remove the thickened layers and take steps to prevent it from recurring.
The hardened skin will need to be trimmed so it isn’t pressing into your feet. Normally you can manage mild corns and calluses by exfoliating them with a pumice stone at home, but if they are causing you discomfort, you may need to have them pared down by a specialist. You should never try to clip or cut these spots yourself, especially if you’re diabetic. You could accidentally injure the healthy skin around them. The doctor may even give you topical antibiotic medications to help prevent infections after treating the affected areas.
You may need to change your shoes, add orthotics, or take steps to treat preexisting conditions to manage the discomfort and prevent reoccurrence, too. If your shoes rub your feet and cause damage, you may need to invest in new footwear. Orthotics can help cushion and pad areas that are under a lot of pressure or friction. They can also help correct some of those preexisting problems that add to the friction against the skin.
Corns and calluses don’t always cause discomfort, but when they do, they can make wearing shoes unpleasant and put your feet at risk for infections. You don’t have to tolerate them, however. You can take steps to restore your skin and keep your feet clear for the future. If you’re struggling with painfully thickened skin, contact Southern Oregon Foot & Ankle for an appointment or more information to take care of the condition. Call our Medford office at (541) 776-3338 or visit the online contact page to reach us.