What are corns?

Corns are small areas of thickened, hardened skin with a central core usually found on the feet. Corns are caused by pressure or friction such as that caused by wearing ill-fitting shoes. On the feet they often occur between the fourth and fifth toes, on the outside of the little toes, and on the sole of the foot. Corns can be annoying and if they are deep they can be painful.

What treatment is available?

It is possible to remove corns but it is also important to identify what is causing them or they will come back. For example, if corns are the result of wearing shoes that do not fit properly, buying a new pair may prevent more corns from forming.

Cushioning the area to protect it can relieve and redistribute the pressure and thereby relieve pain. Moleskin or foam pads, sometimes with holes in the centre, are available for this purpose.

Soaking corns in warm water may soften the skin enough to allow gradual removal of the corn with a pumice stone or emery board over a number of days. If this doesn't work preparations containing salicylic acid are available to buy over the counter from a pharmacist. These preparations soften the skin allowing the corn to be pared down.

When using salicylic acid preparations you should take care not to apply them to the healthy skin surrounding a corn as it may burn. Salicylic acid preparations should not be used by people with diabetes without first consulting a doctor. If you have diabetes you should visit a chiropodist regularly for check-ups and any treatment that may be required. If you are elderly or suffer from persistent corns you should also consult a chiropodist.

Fact sheet provided by MIMS

Date last reviewed: September 2016

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