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What are corns?

Corns are small, defined areas of thickened skin that can either be painless - or be a massive source of pain and discomfort. They tend to have a cone-like shape, with the larger side of the cone appearing at the skin surface, and with the smaller edge pressing into the deeper layers of the foot. 

Corns are a common problem that we see every day here at South Burnett Podiatry, and better yet, we can instantly alleviate the pain and discomfort by simply removing the corn.

There are three main types of corns - hard corns, soft corns and seed corns. We’ve described how to identify them below.

What causes corns?

Corns result from repeated focal pressure on the foot, such as rubbing of the skin against a shoe, wearing no socks with shoes, or foot deformities. This means the longer you spend on your feet, the more likely you are to develop a corn. 

Altered foot shapes like bunions and clawed toes have a greater tendency to develop corns from the resulting friction with footwear. Women are more likely to develop corns due to wearing high heels and less supportive footwear than men. Corns are more prevalent with age as the skin thins and has less protection.

What do corns look and feel like?

Corns generally appear as circular darker patches of skin on the foot. There may be callus overlying the area. Generally, corns can cause localised pain, tenderness and redness. Corns will appear slightly different depending on which type of corn you have:

Hard corns are a compressed patch of hard, darker/deeper skin with a dense core and are often present on the bottom, top or sides of the feet. These are medically known as Heloma Durum.

Soft corns tend to be found between the toes. They have a whiter and softer appearance, often having an indent in the centre. They are softer due to absorbing moisture into the skin, such as from sweat or not drying the feet after showering. These often occur between the 4th and 5th toes and are medically known as Heloma Molle.

Seed corns are much smaller and shallower than hard or soft corns, often likened to the size of a seed. Seed corns are tiny bumps that often occur on the bottom of the heel or ball of the foot. They may be painless or very painful. They often appear in clusters, though single seed corns also appear. These are medically known as Heloma Millare.

How do you treat corns?

We can safely and effectively remove corns in-clinic. This will alleviate your painful symptoms immediately. After we do this, we then work to stop the corns from coming back by removing the force or source of friction that is causing it. 

Good footwear is the first step in reducing the recurrence of corns. Deflective padding and digital corn devices are also indicated for treatment. Over the counter corn pads with medication are available but are wary; the salicylic acid on the corn pad may cause a chemical skin burn and an infection. These are definitely to be avoided by certain individuals, particularly those with systemic conditions such as diabetes. It is best to discuss the right treatment options for you with your Podiatrist to ensure you achieve the best long-term outcome.

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