Your health care provider will likely diagnose corns and calluses by examining your feet. This exam helps rule out other causes of thickened skin, such as warts and cysts. Your health care provider might confirm the diagnosis by paring away a bit of hardened skin. If it bleeds or reveals black points (dried blood), it's a wart, not a corn.
Treatment for corns and calluses is the same. It involves avoiding the repetitive actions that caused them to form. Wearing shoes that fit and using protective pads can help.
If a corn or callus persists or becomes painful despite your self-care efforts, medical treatments can provide relief:
- Trimming away excess skin. Your health care provider can pare down thickened skin or trim a large corn with a scalpel. This can be done during an office visit. Don't try this yourself because it could lead to an infection.
Medicated patches. Your health care provider may also apply a patch containing 40% salicylic acid (Clear Away, MediPlast, others). Such patches are sold without a prescription. Your health care provider will let you know how often you need to replace this patch. Try thinning the thickened skin with a pumice stone, nail file or emery board before applying a new patch.
If you need to treat a larger area, try nonprescription salicylic acid in gel (Compound W, Keralyt) or liquid (Compound W, Duofilm) form.
- Shoe inserts. If you have an underlying foot deformity, your health care provider may prescribe custom-made padded shoe inserts (orthotics) to prevent recurring corns or calluses.
- Surgery. Your health care provider may suggest surgery to correct the alignment of a bone causing friction. This type of surgery can be done without an overnight hospital stay.
Lifestyle and home remedies
If you have diabetes or another condition that causes poor blood flow, consult your health care provider before treating a corn or callus on your own.
If you have no underlying health problems, try these suggestions to help clear up a corn or callus:
- Soak your hands or feet. Soaking corns and calluses in warm, soapy water softens them. This can make it easier to remove the thickened skin.
- Thin thickened skin. Once you've softened the affected skin, rub the corn or callus with a pumice stone, nail file, emery board or washcloth. This helps remove a layer of toughened skin. Don't use a sharp object to trim the skin. Don't use a pumice stone if you have diabetes.
- Use corn pads. Apply a donut-shaped foam pad to protect the area where a corn or callus formed. Be careful using nonprescription liquid corn removers or medicated corn pads. These contain salicylic acid, which can irritate healthy skin and lead to infection, especially in people with diabetes or other conditions that cause poor blood flow. You can protect healthy skin by applying petroleum jelly (Vaseline) to the area around the corn or callus before using a medicated pad.
- Moisturize your skin. Use moisturizer on your hands and feet regularly.
- Wear comfortable shoes and socks. Wear well-fitting, cushioned shoes and socks, at least until your corn or callus disappears.