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What is a Corn?

A hard corn is an accumulation of dead skin that forms small, round, thick, hardened areas. Corns form to protect bones and tissue under the skin from friction. This friction occurs when the skin is squeezed between the shoe on the outside and the bone on the inside. Corns have a cone-shaped core whose point can press on a nerve below, causing pain. They usually form over a joint on the tops, sides, or at the tips of the toes. Corns that form between the toes are called soft corns. They remain soft because of the perspiration present between the toes. Complications that can result from corns are bursitis (a painful inflammation of the fluid-filled sac that surrounds and protects joints) and skin ulcers.

What Causes Corns?

Some of the common causes of corns are tight-fitting shoes and stockings, high-heeled shoes, or loose-fitting shoes that allow the foot to slide forward. Misshapen toes can also result in corns. Soft corns are caused by pressure from the bones of two adjacent toes exerted against the skin of the toes.

What Should I Do if I Have Corns?

There are very simple ways to prevent and treat the development of corns.

  1. Wear proper-fitting footwear with extra room in the toe area. Avoid shoes that are too tight or too loose. Also avoid tight fitting stockings or socks.
  2. Corn protection pads are sometimes helpful in reducing pressure on the corn. The oval shaped pads work only on the outside of the little toe. The round-shaped ones are best for the tops of the toes. Pad or shield the corn and the inflamed area around it with a adhesive moleskin, adhesive foam, or gel pad. If using foam, it can be cut in the shape of a horseshoe so that the corn is not compressed. A pad can be further secured with a band aid or paper tape. A band aid, alone, may be sufficient to provide relief. If using a band aid, it is more comfortable to wrap the band aid around two or three toes. Corn pads should not be placed over broken skin.
  3. Soak feet in warm (not hot) water with Epsom Salts for 15 minutes to provide temporary relief from pain and inflammation.
  4. Gently file the corn, using a nail file until normal skin appears.
  5. Be extremely cautious if you use a commercial corn remover. These liquids, creams, and medicated pads contain salicylic acid that can burn healthy skin along with the corn and could cause ulceration. These must not be used by anyone with diabetes or circulatory impairment.
  6. To treat soft corns, keep the toes apart and free from perspiration by using lamb's wool and/or a toe separator, and foot powder. Keep the area clean with an astringent such as witch hazel or 1/4 cup vinegar in 1 litre of water or a 10% rubbing alcohol solution. Watch for signs of infection

When Should I Get Professional Help?

  1. If you don't see well enough to safely file or pad your corns.
  2. If you are physically unable to look after your corns.
  3. If you don't have the right equipment or understanding of how to care for your corns.
  4. If your corns have developed to the point where you cannot manage them.
  5. A footcare professional may provide a toe prop to prevent painful corn build-up at the tip of the toe.
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