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Corns: Treatment, symptoms, advice and help

About corns

This is a harmless skin condition characterized by excessive thickening and hardening of skin at pressure areas like under, between and on top of toes. Corns are usually self limiting, and seldom result in any grave health concern. Corns are similar to callus in many respects but may be more painful and differ in positions.

Corns: Incidence, age and sex

The occurrence of corn is a very common occurrence worldwide and may affect an individual of any age group. However, it is more frequently seen in adults with same prevalence in both men and women.

Signs and symptoms of corns: Diagnosis

The clinical features of corns include small mounds of thickened and dead skin which may be white or yellow in appearance. The condition can be painful if the underlying nerve gets compressed by corn. Corns can be of two types namely ‘hard corn’ which are most frequent in occurrence or ‘soft corn’ which may occur due to abnormal bones or even between toes.

Although corns may develop in any part of the skin but they are most frequently seen between toes and outer part of 1st and the 5th toe. The corns can be diagnosed by their characteristic physical appearance and tests are not needed for its diagnostic evaluation.

Causes and prevention of corns

Corns occur on skin which is repeatedly exposed to pressure or friction. Corn formation is most commonly seen around the toe due to high heels and ill-fitting and hard footwear. Inner border of the big toe may also be affected by wearing footwear with hard straps in between the big and the second toe. Other structural factors like high arched feet or flat feet may also predispose people to this condition. Sometimes, bony abnormalities or long standing arthritis in feet may also predispose to corn formation.

Corns: Complications

Corns are self limiting and harmless in most of the instances. Very rarely, a callus may get infected with bacteria and show pus collection in it. This may present as painful condition with swelling and redness of skin around the area.

Corns: Treatment

Corn is a recurring problem which can be avoided by taking care not to cause excessive friction around toes. The treatment consists of keratolytic agents which help to dissolve the hard corn. Supportive measures are also helpful, like soaking the affected foot in warm water to soften the corn, followed by rubbing it gently by pumice stone to remove the dead layer of skin. Avoid wearing toe strap footwear if prone to corn formation between the toes. Orthotic footwear may also be tried. Individuals with diabetes are recommended to consult a podiatrist for adequate management of corns and prevention of injury to the foot. Medications like antibiotics may be provided if the corn becomes infected. Surgery is usually not needed unless the corns are persistent and severe.