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Corns (a.k.a Helloma Durum)

Corns are caused by a combination of friction and pressure on a specific area. They are made of layers of hard skin which get thick enough to feel like you are walking on a stone. They are easily treated in a podiatry appointment, and with the correct treatments can be prevented from coming back.

A large, prominent corn on the top/side of a little toe, in-keeping with a corn for someone wearing shoes which are too tight.

About Corns

Our skin is made up of several layers and the outermost layer is responsible for keeping us safe from the outside world. One of the ways that it does this is by producing hard skin (callus) in areas that are vulnerable to damage. 

The way that it recognises this vulnerability is by assessing where there is the most friction or pressure, and it creates this protection by increasing the thickness of this layer through a process known as 'hyperkeratosis'.

This then causes hard skin to build up, which in turn actually increases the amount of friction and pressure in that area resulting in more hard skin to build up which then results in the hard skin being compacted. 

As it cannot grow outwards, and the flesh underneath the corn is soft and squishy, the hard skin continues to thicken, but it just gets deeper. This, as a result, gets more painful. 

Symptoms of Corns

Corns can make themselves known in a number of ways, but mostly by being uncomfortable, or actually just painful. 

They tend to look like a dot on the foot, and will not disrupt the path of the lines in the skin. 

If your corn is between your toes, then it may also look white and have mushy skin over it. 

If a corn is left too long, sometimes they can cause bruising and this will look like there are some red/brown streaks in the corn.

A lady hiker who has put multiple plasters on her feet due to rubbing.
A foot with two corns: one on the fifth metatarsal head and one on the distal phalanx of the fifth toe. The photo shows that the skin lines were not disrupted.

What else could it be?

Corns are effectively just a lesion on the skin, and the sheer number of conditions that corns can be is huge. 

The most common alternative diagnoses are: 

  • Callus

  • Verrucas

  • A foreign body

  • A papule

  • An ulceration

How is a corn diagnosed?

Corns are quite easily recognisable to experienced practitioners, for the most part. There are occasions where the corn may have features that look 'verruca-y'. 

When I have any doubt about the diagnosis of a lesion, I am fortunate to have experience and knowledge in use of a dermascope, which is not only useful for differentiating corns and verrucas, but it is also very useful for ruling out some of the more concerning diagnoses, like skin cancers, where this is applicable. 

A skin lesion being looked at under a magnifying glass.
A lady having the hard skin removed from her feet by a podiatrist, in the same way that hard skin is removed from feet at Keep On Your Feet with a scalpel blade.

How are Corns treated?

Corns are easily treated by shaving the top of them off and delicately removing them with a small and sterile scalpel blade. 

This can immediately relieve your symptoms and give you relief for several weeks or even months. 

At Keep On Your Feet, we like to take your care one step further, when it's appropriate and try to prevent the corns coming back. We do this by identifying any areas where your foot does not function optimally, and then trying to optimise your foot. We are able to optimise your foot's function through using insoles or even just making suggestions of footwear you would benefit from using. 

How long does it take to cure a corn?

Corns can be cured by the time you walk out of your podiatry appointment at Keep On Your Feet. However, this is quite likely to be a temporary solution unless steps are taken to resolve the cause of the corn. 

Depending on how long you have had issues with your corn, a 'wait-and-see' approach might be used after your initial appointment before deciding whether curative steps should be considered. 

A podiatrist crouching down looking at someone standing on orthotics. Orthotics are an effective way of changing a foot's biomechanics to prevent the recurrence of a corn.
Ready to say goodbye to those painful corns?

At Keep On Your Feet, we openly acknowledge that we cannot guarantee a cure for things: but we will work as hard as we can with you to help you reach your goals. 

If your symptoms fit the above, you will need to book a 'Routine Foot Care' Initial consultation. This will be £55 and lasts approximately 40 minutes. If you require a prescription treatment that we cannot offer, then we can write to your GP to request this on your behalf (this may incur a charge in some instances).

This is a picture of Jeremy Ousey, director and podiatrist of Keep On Your Feet.

About the Author

Jeremy Ousey is the owner at Swansea's podiatry clinic: Keep On Your Feet. All the information found on this page was written by him (there's no AI or Chat-GPT here!), and has been carefully chosen to provide you with the information that you need to know about the condition. Jeremy has a Bachelor of Science in Podiatry, with honours, a Post-Graduate Certificate in Podiatric Sports Medicine, a Post-Graduate Diploma in Medical Ultrasound, and two Master's of Science degrees in the Theory of Podiatric Surgery, and Sports & Exercise Medicine. If you would like to know more about Jeremy, please click here.

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