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CORNS: what are they and why do they occur


Millions of people around the world suffer from foot skin problems. Sometimes these problems are only minor but are still a source of great pain and discomfort. One of these problems that many individuals experience are corns, which are common in young and old the world over. Corn removal is one of the many treatments that you should seek advice for from your doctor, before attempting any self, or shop bought, treatments.

Corns consist of thickened layers of skin that the body has formed as a barrier to protect the skin and its' inner layers from outside pressures. Corns can be hard or soft with a translucent center. Hard corns are found mainly on the top, tip, or side of toes where constant pressure is applied. Soft corns are usually found between the toes. All corns can be painful, but soft corns generally more so.


Causes of corns


Corns are caused by friction and pressure on the skin usually when wearing ill-fitting shoes. The first signs are generally sore, tender areas on the toes which if ignored quickly develop into corns and calluses. Corns have a cone shaped core that can often press down on a nerve in the foot causing acute pain and discomfort, corns can easily become inflamed, making them even more painful for the sufferer.

The majority of corns are caused as a result of the footwear a person is wearing. Shoes that are too tight, high heeled shoes, and even shoes that are too loose can cause corns to develop. A corn is actually the result of the bodies self defense process, when the skin becomes tender and sore due mainly to friction, the natural reaction from the body is for it to produce a barrier between the sensitive area and the cause. In the case of footwear rubbing against the foot, the body produces extra layers of skin on the damaged area which gradually builds up as a cushion to ease the pressure.

These cushioned areas develop into corns which are themselves a source of great pain and discomfort due to the fact that any pressure applied on them is transmitted to the nerve below.

Soft corns develop between toes, and are usually small and look like open sores. These corns are generally caused by toes rubbing together creating friction, which in turn causes the skin to erode and split, they often ache and feel tender when touched. Soft corns have a tendency to weep and so keep the problem area moist which only serves to aggravate the problem. Again a major cause of soft corns is ill fitting footwear and is a clear indication as to the importance of ensuring there is adequate toe room in whatever kind of shoes you are wearing.


Treatment of Corns


There are several methods for successfully treating corns, some can be done at home whilst others need to be done in a doctors surgery. A common method to remove corns is to shave the corn down and pad it so as to alleviate pressure thus preventing it from rubbing within the shoe.

Another basic treatment is to put a friction-reducing insole or material into the shoe, or against the foot. In many cases this will reduce the painfulness without actually making the corn disappear, although over time this will lessen friction and pressure so allowing the skin to rest and to stop forming unwanted skin growth, which are the corns.

Rubbing the hard skin of a corn with a mild abrasive such as a pumice stone or nail file can reduce the thickness and so lessen the pressure on the surface of the corn, which in turn should lead to less pain and discomfort. Corns, as with any kind of unwanted growth should never be cut off, unless done properly as part of a surgical procedure by properly trained medical staff. Removing corns yourself in this manner can lead to very serious problems due to the high risk of infection.

Soft corns are ideally best dealt with by first seeking advice from a doctor or foot specialist, as with any open sore or wound the risk of infection is high and the use of over-the-counter soft corn removal medications, without a doctor's approval is not recommended. Self treatment of corns for the relief of pain and discomfort caused by a soft corn is best done by first separating the toes with the use of foam rubber wedges or soft cotton wool balls and ensuring that the actual damaged area is kept free and dry, if there is no improvement or signs of healing then professional advice should be sought without delay.

Should you decide to forgo professional help and continue corn treatment at home then there are many commercially available remedies for treatment of corns, but as with most things, what works for one may not necessarily work for another. Most shop bought treatments mainly concentrate on alleviating pressure on the corn or damaged area, and are usually known as corn pads, plasters or cushions. These products will largely offer pain relief and corn ease tips to the sufferer but by far the most effective treatment is to discover the cause of the problem and correct it. This is more often than not a symptom of poorly fitting footwear and is on the face of it quite simple to fix, many good shoe retailers will actually measure and advise you as to the best style of footwear for your feet and you should always mention at the time if you are prone to corns or other foot complaints, so as to help staff in making correct suggestions.

In very rare circumstances, such as if there is a foot or toe abnormality which is causing a recurring problem, an operation may be advisable. A relatively simple operation will be needed to straighten a deformed toe, or to remove part of a bone that is protruding out from a toe and which is the cause of the problem.


Some simple tips for home treatment


Soaking your foot corn with warm water and Epsom salt for at least five minutes, three times a day will help to soften the corn. Another common foot corn treatment is using a pumice stone on the corn which will file it down and so begin to remove part or all of the corn.

Applying a lanolin-enriched lotion to help soften the skin around the corn can also be helpful. Lanolin based lotions will work underneath the skin allowing the foot corn to soften up. Again, these are all easy ideas for treatment for corns.

Trying to remove foot corns by treating with unprescribed ointments that contain acids can damage skin on the otherwise healthy areas of the foot. Also, if the foot corn is open and discharging pus or a clear fluid, this can be seen as a clear sign that it may be infected and you are advised to seek medical treatment for a complete evaluation.

Stretching new shoes or replacing your old shoes with properly fitting ones can be the first step, and probably the best solution, to preventing the future development of corns. Other health issues, that may cause corns or foot complaints, such as an abnormal gait which in turn can lead to excessive pressure on your feet should also be considered. Your doctor or a chiropodist can provide foot corn treatment in their surgery or practice room by using a scalpel to shave off the top of the corn to reduce the toughened and hard skin. Your doctor may also suggest the use of a salicylic acid on the corn itself in an attempt to soften the skin and so reduce its size.



Many people make the mistake of referring to a bunion as a corn when in fact a bunion is totally different. Although both appear on the feet and both give pain when shoes or footwear rub against them, they are completely different and the method of treatment is also different.

A bunion is a structural deformity of the bones and the joint between the big toe and the foot, and are usually quite painful for the sufferer, in some cases the toe will malform or turn inwards toward the second toe.

Treatment for a bunion can sometimes consist of corrective surgery in the more severe cases, although for most people aids such as, bunion/toe separators, bunion regulators, bunion splints, and cushions will generally suffice.

Generally most remedies for bunions are aimed at alleviating pain and discomfort rather than removing the bunion, but in many cases once the cause of the bunion is removed or lessened the toe will gradually return to normal, or at least be pain free.


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