What is a corn?

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A corn is a thick, hardened layer of skin on the foot. These small bumps often have a hardened center and are surrounded by inflamed skin. Corns typically develop on the tops of the feet and the sides of the toes. While often mistaken for calluses, corns are often smaller, harder, and more painful.

Corns are not dangerous, but they can be uncomfortable to live with. If you think you have a corn, consider seeking medical care. Corns almost always resolve on their own, but a physician can provide access to stronger, faster treatments when necessary.

What causes corns on feet?

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Friction and pressure cause corns to appear on the feet. In most cases, this friction is the result of wearing too-tight shoes. Standing or walking for long periods of time creates constant friction. This, in turn, can create corns. Additionally, wearing shoes without socks can cause added friction.

Those with genetic or developed foot abnormalities are at a greater risk for developing corns. People with hammertoe, bunions, and bone spurs often wear shoes that do not accommodate abnormal foot shapes. These ill-fitting shoes can cause growths to appear at pressure points.

Remember that most foot blemishes do not often develop overnight. Corns may take weeks or months to appear. As a precaution, reduce uncomfortable footwear use as much as possible. This can postpone or prevent corn development altogether.

How to identify a corn?

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Corn symptoms are similar to other foot blemishes. As a result, the easiest way to identify a corn is to note its location. Unlike plantar warts and calluses, corns rarely appear on parts of the foot that bear weight. Rather, these growths appear on the tops of the feet and in between toes.

While location is often the most important aspect of diagnosing a corn, there are other factors to consider, too. If you note any of the following symptoms, you may have a corn.

  • Skin that is sensitive to the touch
  • Pain when wearing shoes, especially at pressure points, like around the toe box
  • Rough, yellowing skin appearing as a patch
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The best way to treat a corn is to eliminate the cause of the friction and pressure. In most cases, this means wearing a new pair of shoes. However, there are other measures people can take to resolve irritation and protect the blemish from further damage.

The most common corn home remedy involves filing down the skin with a pumice stone. To do this, soak the affected foot in warm water for at least 10 minutes and pat dry. When the corn has softened, gently rub the area with a pumice stone or emery board. Take care to not file off too much skin, as this can lead to infection.

When you’ve filed away part of the corn, apply a moisturizing lotion to the area. Note that corns also respond well to salicylic acid, but you should not combine corn filing with this other topical treatment.

If your corn pain worsens, if the blemish shows pus or drainage, or if it begins to swell, visit a doctor. These indicate that the bump has become infected, and it will need to be treated with antibiotics.