What is a callus?

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A callus is a thickened area of skin. Calluses can appear anywhere on the body, but they are most often found on the feet. Like corns, these growths are a result of prolonged friction, often from ill-fitting shoes.

Calluses do not indicate a medical problem, and they are rarely a reason to seek emergency care. However, some people may not like the way they look or feel, especially if they become very thick. Home remedies and the help of a doctor can improve callus appearance, sometimes causing them to disappear altogether.

What causes calluses on feet?

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Like corns, calluses are caused by repeated friction or irritation on the skin. Ill-fitting shoes are the most likely direct cause. When a shoe does not fit correctly, or when the foot experiences repeated friction for another reason, the skin will thicken to protect the underlying structures. Calluses on the feet often take several days or weeks to build up. Calluses on the hands, like those developed from weightlifting or playing guitar, may take less time to develop.

As with calluses, some people may be more at risk of developing calluses than others. If you fit into any of these categories, you have a greater likelihood of experiencing a callus.

  • People who have foot deformities, like bunions, hammertoes, and bone spurs
  • People who do not wear socks with their shoes
  • People who wear shoes that are too narrow for the foot
  • Cigarette smokers

How to identify a callus?

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Callus symptoms are broad, which means they are often mistaken for other types of foot blemishes. In general, calluses are large patches of skin, typically on bony parts of the foot, that are both thick and hard. These growths appear on weight-bearing parts of the feet, like under the big toe, on the ball of the foot, and on the heel.

Calluses are often mistaken for plantar warts. The best way to differentiate between the two is to know that calluses will not have any black spots, as warts might. Instead, calluses are raised, roughened areas of skin. They are typically white, yellow, or lighter than a person’s natural skin color.

A callus may also be mistaken for a corn. In general, calluses are bigger and wider than corns, and their edges are less defined. Additionally, calluses are more likely to form on the foot soles, whereas corns are often found on the tops of toes.

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Calluses are not generally painful, so few people seek treatment. These blemishes are less sensitive to the touch than the surrounding skin. However, if the callus becomes too thickened, it may crack. These fissures can be painful, and they can lead to infection. If you have a well-developed callus, consider seeking treatment to avoid fissures from forming.

Frequently soaking feet in warm water can help treat this type of growth. After towel-drying the skin, people can usually rub away a layer or two of the callus with a finger. Over time, you may be able to completely remove the blemish. More well-developed calluses may also respond well to pumice stones, emery boards, and sandpaper.

If your callus becomes cracked, begins to swell, or turns red, seek medical attention. These are signs that the blemish may be infected. Your doctor will likely prescribe an antibiotic treatment.