Corns and calluses are thick layers of skin. They are caused by repeated pressure or friction at the spot where the corn or callus develops.
Calluses and corns
Corns and calluses are caused by pressure or friction on skin. A corn is thickened skin on the top or side of a toe. Most of the time it is caused by bad-fitting shoes. A callus is thickened skin on your hands or the soles of your feet.
The thickening of the skin is a protective reaction. For example, farmers and rowers get calluses on their hands that prevent blisters from forming. People with bunions often develop a callus over the bunion because it rubs against the shoe.
Corns and calluses may be painful but are not serious problems for most people.
Symptoms may include:
Your health care provider will make the diagnosis after looking at your skin. In most cases, tests are not needed.
Preventing friction is often the only treatment needed.
To treat corns:
To treat calluses:
If an infection or ulcer occurs in an area of a callus or corn, the tissue may need to be removed by a provider. You may need to take antibiotics.
Corns and calluses are rarely serious. They should improve with proper treatment and not cause long-term problems.
Complications of corns and calluses are rare. People with diabetes or problems with the nerves in their toes are prone to ulcers and infections and should regularly examine their feet to identify any problems right away. Such foot injuries need medical attention.
Check your feet carefully if you have diabetes or numbness in the feet or toes.
Otherwise, the problem should resolve with changing to better-fitting shoes or wearing gloves.
Call your provider if:
American Diabetes Association. Standard of medical care in diabetes-2023 abridged for primary care providers. Clin Diabetes. 2023;41(1):4-31. PMID: 36714254 pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/36714254/.
Smith ML. Environmental and sports-related skin diseases. In: Bolognia JL, Schaffer JV, Cerroni L, eds. Dermatology. 4th ed. Philadelphia, PA: Elsevier; 2018:chap 88.
Metze D, Oji V. Disorders of keratinization. In: Calonje E, Brenn T, Lazar AJ, Billings SD, eds. McKee's Pathology of the Skin. Philadelphia, PA: Elsevier; 2020:chap 3.
Reviewed By: Linda J. Vorvick, MD, Clinical Professor, Department of Family Medicine, UW Medicine, School of Medicine, University of Washington, Seattle, WA. Also reviewed by David C. Dugdale, MD, Medical Director, Brenda Conaway, Editorial Director, and the A.D.A.M. Editorial team.