As Podiatrists, we get asked a lot of questions regarding foot care. A lot of our clients ask us about how to treat a corn and other issues at home. We also get asked questions like, “what’s the difference between a verruca and a corn?” and “is a corn serious?”.
So, we decided to put together a blog answering a few frequently asked questions about corns. If you want to learn more about corns and how to treat a corn, keep reading.
What Are Corns?
Corns are buildups of hardened areas of skin. They can form anywhere but tend to show up on feet, hands, and fingers the most. They are usually round and relatively small, and you’ll most likely see them develop on the sides and tops of your toes. There are three distinct types of corns:
- Hard Corns: These are hard and dense, and usually form on the top of your toes, where your bones exert pressure on your skin. They usually reside within a bigger part of thickened skin.
- Soft Corns: Usually whitish-grey in colour, with a slightly softer and rubbery texture, soft corns show up between your toes.
- Seed Corns: As the name suggests, seed corns are quite small. They normally form at the bottom of your feet.
Corns usually develop due to constant rubbing, friction, pressure, and irritation against the skin. This is why you will most likely see them appear on the bony part of your feet. This hardening layer is actually your body’s defence to protect the softer skin underneath from the pressure.
How Do I Know If I Have A Corn?
Now that you know what a corn is, you’ll be easily able to identify it. You can identify a corn on your foot if:
- You have a hard bump on your skin, which is surrounded by a dry patch of skin.
- You have a tender and raised lump on your skin, that is painful to pressure.
Corns are often confused with calluses and verrucas (more on that later!). The main difference between corns and calluses is that corns are painful, while calluses are normally not painful. Corns have a central core that acts as a pressure point, which is the sensitive part the corn is protecting. So, when pressure is applied, corns tend to hurt.
Is A Corn Serious?
Corns are generally not a serious issue. They can be easy to deal with, but if you don’t treat them properly from the get-go, you could potentially develop an infection. That would make the issue a serious one. Especially if you have diabetes or any other circulation-related issues. You should never try to treat your corn (or any other issue, for that matter) on your own when you have diabetes.
What’s The Difference Between A Verruca And A Corn?
Oftentimes, people confuse corns for verrucas and vice-versa. Verrucas are a completely different issue altogether. There are a few key identifying factors when differentiating whether you have a verruca or corn. These are just a few of many:
- Verrucas are viruses (often called the Verruca Infection) caused by HPV. They are highly contagious (commonly seen when children with HFM Disease interact with other children on playgrounds). Corns, on the other hand (or foot!), are cone-shaped pieces of hard skin that form on areas of pressure. They are formed by friction and are not contagious.
- Verrucas aren’t picky. They see all feet as fit for infection. Corns, however, tend to form on dryer skin.
- Verrucas have a long incubation period that can range from a couple of months to a year. Corns tend to form over a long period of time from constant pressure and friction, while Verrucas seem to kind of just “show up” out of the blue.
If you want to know more about how to differentiate between verrucas and corns, we have a couple of blogs that might help:
- Verruca Or Corn?: Spot the Difference and Treat Your Verruca Infection with Care
- What’s The Difference Between A Verruca And A Corn?
How To Treat A Corn
One of the most frequently asked questions about corns, is how to treat a corn. You’ll be happy to know that there are a few considerably painless methods a podiatrist will use to treat your corn. Here they are:
- Trimming: Your podiatrist will most likely remove your corn by trimming it down using a tool. You can try doing this at home by soaking your feet for around 20 minutes in order to make the skin soft. Then, go ahead and gently scrape away at the rough skin using a pumice stone.
- Chemical: This type of corn treatment for the foot is similar to trimming, but uses chemical products instead to slowly dissolve the affected skin. A common product used is salicylic acid, which dissolves keratin (what dead skin is made of).
- Toe Protection /Footpads: Though not really a form of treatment, it’s worth mentioning. Using footpads can help ease the discomfort significantly. You can also use toe splints to prevent your toes from creating friction with each other.
A recommended at-home treatment is as follows:
- Soak the corn in warm water, for 5-10 minutes till the skin softens
- File the corn with a pumice stone. First, dip the stone in warm water then use it very gently against your corn. Make sure to use it in circular motions or sideways motions. This will remove the dead skin.
- Don’t file it too much and take off too much skin, this can lead to bleeding and infections
- Use moisturizer/lotion on the area daily. Preferably one with salicylic acid, urea, or ammonium lactate.
- Use a piece of moleskin as padding. Cut the moleskin into two half-moon shapes and place it around the corn. To prevent your corn from constant shoe contact, use a doughnut-shaped adhesive pad to protect it.
- Always wear shoes that fit you right.
- Keep your toenails trimmed.
When Should I See A Podiatrist?
Corns can impact your day-to-day life due to pain while walking. Most corns are unproblematic, while some can become extremely painful or even infected. That’s why it’s always best to see a podiatrist when dealing with anything related to your feet.
Always see a podiatrist in case:
- Your corn is painful.
- If you suffer from diabetes, untreated corns can develop into worse illnesses.
- If you cut your corn and it bleeds, the skin break allows infections to pour in.
- Your corn is discharging pus or clear fluids. This means it’s either infected or has ulcers forming. Both of these require immediate medical care.
- If you suffer from heart disease, or other circulatory problems (like diabetes).