Why Corns and Calluses Can be a Problem

One of the most influential sociological books over the past 20 years is Malcolm Gladwell’s The Tipping Point: How Little Things Can Make a Big Difference. In his work, Gladwell looks at the points where trends really take off, and what leads up to those occurrences. Through numerous examples—like the steep drop in New York City crime during the 1990’s and the popularity of certain children’s television programs—Gladwell illustrates the point that seemingly minor things actually add up to major events and results.

Gladwell doesn’t tackle this topic in his book, but his premise reminds us a bit of corns and calluses. People might consider these skin problems to be somewhat trivial, but they can add up to larger issues!Bottom of feet with corns and calluses

Calluses and corns are related, yet different, skin conditions. Both are formed by thickened, dead skin, but each has distinct characteristics. Calluses are flat, have a waxy appearance, and are often found in areas of intense pressure (like the bottom of the heel and ball of foot). Corns, on the other hand, are raised and have a soft center. They are caused by friction and less likely to be found in areas that face higher levels of pressure (otherwise, they would not likely have their raised, conical shape).

Some of the ways corns and calluses can create problems include:

  • Pain or discomfort. Calluses aren’t usually painful, but corns often are, especially when they sustain pressure. Even small corns can lead to pain or discomfort.
  • Cracking and infection risk. When skin becomes dry and thickened (callused), it can develop cracks in response to the pressure feet face on a regular basis. This can be quite painful, but deep fissures also increase the risk of infection.
  • Diabetic foot ulcers. Dry, dead skin patches are particularly concerning for diabetic individuals. When calluses thicken, they can break down in time and become foot ulcers. Non-healing diabetic ulcers can cause severe damage to body tissues and may require limb amputation.

You may be able to handle a corn or callus on your own at home, but Advanced Foot and Ankle provides professional care if you need it. For more information about any of the podiatric services we offer, give us a call at (208) 731-6321 or schedule an appointment to see us in person at either our Twin Falls or Burley, ID offices.

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