While it may be tempting to self-diagnose a lower limb ailment, it is essential to understand how to differentiate common issues and seek proper treatment. Some of the most frequently confused foot and ankle terms are bunions, corns, and calluses. These conditions are often confused or used interchangeably, however, each is a very different affliction of the foot even though they may seem to have similar causes and symptoms. This blog can be used as a guide to help differentiate between bunions, corns, and calluses while also offering treatment options and prevention methods.
Calluses are flat hardened areas of the skin typically found on weight-bearing areas. The hardening of skin is a protective function to safeguard your feet from sustained rubbing or friction. For example, guitar players often form calluses on their fingers to protect the guitar strings from breaking the skin. Similarly, your feet can form calluses to protect against shoes that are too tight, or from walking barefoot in areas with hard rocky surfaces.
Calluses are not normally painful, but if you have an additional medical condition like diabetes, we recommend treating calluses before they form into a more painful ulcer. Instead of using harsh over-the-counter chemicals to dissolve the callus and risk damage to the surrounding skin, schedule a visit with our expert podiatrists to get a personalized plan for treating and removing your callus. To prevent calluses from forming, limit your feet to exposure to friction, always wear socks with shoes, avoid going barefoot and wear shoes that fit properly and don't rub against your feet or the back of the heel.
A corn is raised, often in a conical shape, and has a center that differs in consistency, either harder or softer, than the surrounding skin. Corns are frequently located in areas that do not bear weight, but experience friction, like between toes and on the tops of feet. The repeated friction causes the skin to die and form a painful corn. Compared to the flat and hard callus, corns are rounded, tend to protrude from the foot, and become painful, especially when applying pressure.
Similarly to the treatment of calluses, we recommend getting an expert's opinion when it comes to removal. Over-the-counter chemical treatments can help dissolve the corn, but users risk damaging the healthy skin surrounding the corn. To prevent the development of corns, eliminate any areas of friction between your feet and shoes. If your toes are rubbing together or against your shoe, this is a sign that your shoes are too small. Look for footwear that allows enough space for you to freely wiggle your toes.
A bunion is a big toe deformity that can grow more painful and worsen over time. A bunion can be identified as a large bulge at the base of the big toe, caused by the first joint sliding out of alignment in the foot. The big toe will then lean toward the small ones next to it, while the metatarsal bone slides away from its neighbors. This causes the joint where the two meet to bend outward and create a large bump on the outside of the foot. Bunions are usually a hereditary condition that can worsen with ill-fitting shoes and pressures on the foot. The bulge can be quite uncomfortable, and because bunions are progressive, it is important to take action to prevent additional pain to the foot.
At Martin Foot and Ankle we can recommend conservative remedies for bunions that include relieving the pressure on the ball of the foot, reducing friction between the bulging joint, and modifying your footwear. Special shoes or orthotics that accommodate the foot shape can ease pain and provide support. For more serious cases that do not respond to conservative methods, direct injections of anti-inflammatory medications may help. Severe bunions or ones that don’t respond to medication may require surgery.
If you are experiencing bunions, corns, or calluses, schedule a visit with our podiatrists at Martin Foot and Ankle. Any foot pain is not normal, and can seriously impact your quality of life and day-to-day freedom of movement. We can recommend treatment plans to ease pain and ensure your feet stay healthy, supported, and pain-free! Call 717-757-3537 or fill out our online contact form to schedule an appointment at any of our five convenient locations.