Overview

Corns and calluses are hard or thick areas of skin that can be painful. They're not often serious. There are things you can try to ease them yourself.

Check if you have a corn or callus

You mostly get corns and calluses on your feet, toes and hands.

Corns are small lumps of hard skin.    

Calluses are larger patches of rough, thick skin.

Corns and calluses can also be tender or painful.

What you can do about corns and calluses

Important

If you have diabetes, heart disease or problems with your circulation, do not try to treat corns and calluses yourself.

These conditions can make foot problems more serious. See a GP or foot specialist.

Corns and calluses are not often serious and there are things you can try to:

  • get rid of them yourself
  • stop them coming back

Do:

  • wear thick, cushioned socks
  • wear wide, comfortable shoes with a low heel and soft sole that do not rub
  • use soft insoles or heel pads in your shoes
  • soak corns and calluses in warm water to soften them
  • regularly use a pumice stone or foot file to remove hard skin
  • moisturise to help keep skin soft

Don't:

  • do not try to cut off corns or calluses yourself
  • do not walk long distances or stand for long periods
  • do not wear high heels or tight pointy shoes
  • do not go barefoot

You can ask a pharmacist about:

  • heel pads and insoles
  • over-the-counter products to treat corns and calluses
  • different kinds of pain relief

Find a pharmacy

See a GP if you think you have a corn or callus and:

  • you have diabetes
  • you have heart disease or problems with your circulation
  • it bleeds, or has any pus or discharge
  • it has not improved after treating it at home for 3 weeks
  • the pain is severe or stopping you doing your normal activities

Treatment from a foot specialist

A foot specialist, such as a podiatrist, may be able to offer treatments such as:

  • cutting away the corn or callus
  • patches to help soften the hard skin so it can be removed
  • specially made soft pads or insoles to take pressure off the painful area of your foot

Referral to a podiatrist on the NHS may not be available to everyone and waiting times can be long. You can pay to see a podiatrist privately.

Common causes of corns or calluses

Corns and calluses are caused by pressure or rubbing of the skin on the hands or feet.

For example, from:

  • wearing high heels, uncomfortable shoes or shoes that are the wrong size
  • not wearing socks with shoes
  • lifting heavy weights
  • playing a musical instrument
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Treatment

Treating painful corns and calluses involves removing the cause of the pressure or friction and getting rid of the thickened skin.

You may be advised to wear comfortable flat shoes instead of high-heeled shoes. If calluses develop on the hands, wearing protective gloves during repetitive tasks will give the affected area time to heal.

If you're not sure what's causing a corn or callus, see your GP. They may refer you to a podiatrist (also called a chiropodist). Podiatrists specialise in diagnosing and treating foot problems. They'll examine the affected area and recommend appropriate treatment.

See below for more information about podiatry and how to access it on the NHS.

Hard skin removal

A podiatrist may cut away some of the thickened skin using a sharp blade called a scalpel. This helps to relieve pressure on the tissue underneath.

Don't try to cut the corn or callus yourself. You could make it more painful and it might become infected. You can use a pumice stone or foot file to rub down skin that's getting thick.

Foot care products

Pharmacies sell a range of products that allow thick, hard skin to heal and excessive pressure to be redistributed. Ask your GP, podiatrist or pharmacist to recommend the right product for you.

Examples of products that can be used to treat corns and calluses include:

  • special rehydration creams for thickened skin
  • protective corn plasters
  • customised soft padding or foam insoles
  • small foam wedges that are placed between the toes to help relieve soft corns
  • special silicone wedges that change the position of your toes or redistribute pressure

Salicylic acid

Some over-the-counter products used to treat corns and calluses may contain salicylic acid. Salicylic acid is used to help soften the top layer of dead skin so it can be easily removed. The products are mild and shouldn't cause any pain.

Salicylic acid products are available for direct application (such as a liquid or gel) or in medicated pads or plasters.

It's important to avoid products containing salicylic acid if you have:

This is because there's an increased risk of damage to your skin, nerves and tendons.

Salicylic acid can sometimes damage the skin surrounding a corn or callus. You can use petroleum jelly or a plaster to cover the skin around the corn or callus.

Always read the instructions carefully before applying the product. Speak to your GP, podiatrist or pharmacist first if you're not sure which treatment is suitable.

Podiatry

Podiatry is available free of charge on the NHS in most areas of the UK. However, availability may vary depending on where you live.

Your case will be assessed individually, which may affect how long you'll need to wait to be seen. For example, people with severe diabetes are often given priority because the condition can cause serious foot problems to develop.

If free NHS treatment isn't available in your area, your GP can still refer you to a local clinic for private treatment, but you'll have to pay.

If you decide to contact a podiatrist yourself, make sure they're fully qualified and registered with the Health and Care Professions Council (HCPC) and an accredited member of one of the following organisations:

Infected corns

An infected corn will be inflamed and painful and may ooze pus or clear liquid. The inflammation may start to spread back up the foot. This needs to be examined by your GP or a podiatrist.

You may need to have a course of antibiotics or treatment to drain the pus and remove the affected skin.

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Selected links

NHS 111 Wales links

Bunions

Blisters

Athlete's foot

External links

Society of Chiropodists and Podiatrists

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The information on this page has been adapted by NHS Wales from original content supplied by NHS UK NHS website nhs.uk
Last Updated: 08/10/2019 11:11:26