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Foot Condition Treatments: Corns - Calluses - Cysts


Foot Corns, Calluses & Cysts

Foot Corns – What are they?

Corns are essentially small calluses that occur around bone areas on the toes but usually on the top or between toes. Usually the cause of developing foot corns is the result of shoes that don’t fit properly, hammertoes, bunions or other toe issues are prominent.

Symptoms of Foot Corns

Foot corns can develop in a number of different places on the foot including on the sides of the toes, under the nail bed, between the toes and underneath the feet. You may notice symptoms such as:

  • Lumpy skin which is yellowed and tough
  • Skin that feels sensitive
  • Discomfort when wearing shoes

All corns have a central core which can be painful it they press on a nerve. There are several different types of corn:

Hard Corns –  These are the most common type and are typically around the size of a pea. They arise within an area of callus or thickened skin and present as very hard skin concentrated into a small spot. These are often causes by improper functioning of toes and feet.

Soft Corns –  These are rubbery and white in color and typically arise between toes as a result of insufficient drying of the skin, or moisture from sweat.

Seed Corns – These can occur either in clumps or singly underneath the foot. Seed corns are normally painless.

Vascular Corns –  These type of corns contain both nerve fibers and blood vessels. If they are cut, they will bleed profusely. Vascular corns are usually very painful.

Fibrous Corns – If the corns remain untreated for long periods they may attached more firmly to deeper tissues and may also become painful.

Foot Corn Treatment Options:

  • Trimming away excess skin
  • Callus-removing medication
  • Shoe inserts
  • Surgery

How to Prevent Foot Corns

Follow these measures to prevent foot corns from developing:

  • Always wear properly fitting shoes
  • Allow sufficient space between the toes and the top of the shoe – at least a thumbnail width
  • Avoid pointed toes and high heels in shoes
  • Replace worn-out soles on shoes or buy new footwear

Foot Calluses

A callus (also known as hyperkeratosis), is a flattened area of thick skin. Like corns, they also occur from excessive pressure on the skin on the feet. Corns are smaller and calluses are larger flatter areas. Calluses can occur anywhere on the body where there is repeated friction. The type of callus that occurs on the bottom of the foot is known as a plantar callus. 

What causes foot calluses?

As already described, calluses occur where there is repeated pressure and arise as a means of protecting the skin from extended pressure. This is the reason why calluses occur so frequently on the underside of the feet as this area has to support your entire bodyweight. There are some causes which can exacerbate the potential for developing a callus:

  • High heels or poorly fitting footwear
  • Wear shoes with no or thin socks
  • Spending a long time on your feet or extended sporting activities
  • Bone deformities
  • Smoking (due to constriction of the blood vessels)
  • Older age (due to a decline in fatty tissue on the balls of the feet)

Symptoms of Foot Calluses

If you’re not sure whether you have a foot callus, look out for the following signs:

  • Skin which is yellowish or gray
  • Flaky, hard, dry skin which feels rough to the touch
  • On area which has been subject to friction, typically the balls or heels of your feet

Foot Callus Treatment Options

You should never attempt to cut away calluses yourself, as it could easily become painful and infected. A podiatrist may offer the following treatments for calluses including:

  • Removal of hard skin
  • Emollient cream
  • Padding, strapping or other corrective appliances to prevent further calluses

How to Prevent a Foot Callus

In addition to the pads or appliances recommended by your podiatrist, to prevent calluses from forming you can:

  • Wash and exfoliate your feet daily
  • Gently use a pumice stone on rough and thickened areas of the foot skin
  • Only wear shoes that fit properly and don’t feel tight
  • Avoid high heels

Foot Cysts

Also known as ganglion cysts, foot cysts are tumors or swellings on top of joints or the covering of a tendon. There is a is a thick, sticky, clear, colorless, jellylike material inside of the foot cyst. The word “tumor” can be terrifying but ganglion cysts are a type of non-cancerous lump that don’t present any danger at all.

What causes foot cysts?

Unlike many other foot conditions, the precise cause of ganglion cysts is not precisely known. This is referred to as idiopathic. The cyst develops from either the lining of a tendon or out of a joint, looking like a miniature water balloon on a stick in the very early stages. If any of the tissue is bulging out of its usual position, there is a greater likelihood of a cyst developing. Conditions such as osteoarthritis and prior trauma to the foot seem to also increase the risk.

Symptoms of Foot Cysts

The symptoms of a ganglion cyst on the foot are typically:

  • A round or oval shaped lump
  • Anything from pea-shaped up to 2.5cm in size. The size can vary with movement and can swell with repetitive use of the joint.
  • Typically painless but if the cyst is near a nerve and presses on it, you may notice pain, tingling or numbness.

Foot Cyst Treatment Options

Although ganglion cysts don’t carry any risk, they can still be awkward and catch on socks and footwear. For this reason, some individuals opt to have their ganglion cysts treated. Ganglion cysts which aren’t causing any obstruction are usually left.

Once a ganglion cyst has been properly diagnosed, many people wait before having any treatment. It’s only if the cyst grows larger or begins to interfere with the movement of the foot that treatment is considered.

Cyst treatment options include:

Immobilization – Conservative treatment which immobilizes the area using a brace or splint. Movement can encourage a cyst to swell and grow so immobilization can help it to shrink without any further intervention. Immobilizing the area can be very inconvenient for a foot cyst so is rarely used.

Aspiration – this involves a long needle which is inserted into the cyst and the fluid drained. This will make it appear as if the cyst has been completely removed but as the walls are intact, it may refill and return over time.

Excision – This is a type of surgery where the whole cyst is removed along with the stalk which attaches it to the surrounding tendons and joints. Although this may resolve the problem completely there is a risk that the cyst will recur even after this type of surgery.

How to Prevent a Foot Cyst

The cause of ganglion cysts is unknown so there is no proven way to prevent them from occurring. It is always a good idea to keep your feet in the best possible condition and consult a podiatrist if you notice anything unusual.

If you think you might be suffering from foot corns, calluses or cysts, get in touch with us at Vittori Foot and Ankle Specialist to make an appointment for expert podiatry advice and help.

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