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Corns and Calluses

Corns and calluses are formed on the hands and feet as a protective response to repetitive friction against the skin. This is known as hyperkeratosis. Corns (plu. helomata. sing. heloma) generally occur on the toes and balls of the feet. They are layers of skin which become built up and thickened because of repeated pressure or friction. This build up irritates the tissue underneath and develops a mass of dead cells in its centre. Calluses (tylomas) occur on the feet hands and any other part of the skin where friction is present. They are not usually painful but if they are, treatment is required. Neither corns nor calluses are serious conditions.



  • Texture varies from dry, waxy, transparent to a horny mass
  • Distinct borders
  • Most common on feet
  • May be hard or soft
  • Usually painful


  • Thickening of skin without distinct borders
  • Most commonly on feet and hands over bony spots
  • Vary in colour from white to gray-yellow, brown, or red
  • May be painless or tender
  • May throb or burn


Prevention of friction is usually the only treatment needed to eliminate the corn within a couple of weeks. To speed up the process, using a pumice stone to gently wear down the corn or using corn-pads (available at pharmacies) will help. To prevent and eliminate the calluses on the hands, while engaging in activities that cause friction, wearing gloves will protect skin from the friction. Unhealthy tissue may need to be removed by a doctor and antibiotics administered, if an infection or ulcer is present. Persons with diabetes or poor circulation would need to pay attention if the following conditions are present and seek medical attention:

  • The redness of the sore seems to be spreading
  • Pus oozing out of the sore
  • Increasing pain and swelling
  • Fever
  • Fingers or toes changing colour
  • Signs of gangrene (tissue decay)
  • Numbness in the feet or toes