A callus is an abnormal thickening of the top layer of skin, which is composed of the natural protein, keratin. Calluses can form on areas that are repeatedly exposed to friction or pressure. They are usually painless or only mildly painful.
A corn is a small, well-defined, thickened area of skin that forms on the toes. Corns put pressure on the underlying skin against the bone. They are usually inflamed and painful.
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Calluses and corns form as protective pads of skin in response to repeated friction or pressure. Causes include:
Calluses—Any activity that applies repeated friction or pressure to an area of skin, including:
Lifting weights (hands)Using tools (hands)Playing a stringed instrument (hands)Running long distances (feet)Kneeling to lay carpet or tile (knees)Walking on hard surfaces without shoes (feet)
Corns—Any activity or condition that applies repeated friction or pressure to the skin over toes or other bones, including:
Wearing ill-fitting shoesBunching of socks around toesSocks with seams that rub against the toesFoot abnormality causing a protrusion that rubs against footwear
Factors that may increase the risk of calluses and corns include: Professions or physical activities that cause repeated friction or pressure on the skinWearing ill-fitting footwearFoot deformities, such as bunion or hammer toe
Symptoms of calluses include: Rough, thickened area of skinPainless or slight degree of pain, burning sensationYellow or reddish in color
Symptoms of corns include: Small, usually painful bump over bony prominence, on the side or the top of the toe, or between toesYellow or reddish in color
The skin where a corn or callus has formed will be examined. Diagnosis is based on symptoms and visual observation of the corn or callus. They are easily distinguished by: Location—Corns usually only form over bony prominence, on the toe, or between toes; while calluses can form over any area where there is rubbingDegree of pain—Corns are usually quite painful, while calluses are usually painless or only slightly painful
A scalpel may be used to remove layers of the skin to make sure that it is a corn or callus, rather than a
Treatment of calluses and corns usually include self-care and medication. In severe cases, minor surgery may be necessary. People with
or circulatory problems should always see a doctor or podiatrist for treatment. Self-treatment may lead to severe infection in these individuals.
For calluses: Wear gloves, thick socks, or padding to protect your skin.Some calluses need to be thinned. Thin the callus by rubbing with a
For corns: Wear properly fitting shoes.Remove bunching of socks, irritating stitching from socks, or any other irritant.Thin the callus by rubbing with a
while bathing.Try using doughnut-shaped corn pads, which may relieve pressure on corns.
Applying keratin-dissolving medication (such as salicylic acid) can help dissolve calluses and corns more quickly. Apply medication carefully, since it contains acid that may damage nearby healthy skin.
In severe cases, calluses and corns may need to be shaved off with a scalpel. More extensive surgery may be needed to correct foot deformities that cause extremely painful or debilitating corns.
To prevent calluses: Avoid activities that apply repeated friction or pressure to the skin.Wear gloves, thick socks, or padding over the affected area of the skin.
To prevent corns: Wear properly fitted shoes.Wear properly fitted socks with no irritating stitching.
Callus. EBSCO DynaMed website. Available at:
http://www.ebscohost.com/dynamed. Updated January 19, 2011. Accessed February 15, 2016.
Corn. EBSCO DynaMed website. Available at:
http://www.ebscohost.com/dynamed. Updated June 10, 2010. Accessed February 15, 2016.
Corns. Ortho Info—American Academy of Orthopaedic Surgeons website. Available at:
Updated September 2012. Accessed February 15, 2016.
Last reviewed March 2016 by Michael Woods, MD
Please be aware that this information is provided to supplement the care provided by your physician. It is neither intended nor implied to be a substitute for professional medical advice. CALL YOUR HEALTHCARE PROVIDER IMMEDIATELY IF YOU THINK YOU MAY HAVE A MEDICAL EMERGENCY. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health provider prior to starting any new treatment or with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition.
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