A callus is a hardened, rough patch of dead skin caused by friction and it can occur anywhere on the body. Calluses are scientifically referred to as tyloma. Calluses on feet are the most common form of callus that most people suffer from. They are often formed as a defense mechanism, to protect skin from injury or damage. Though often not painful, they are unsightly and a cause of embarrassment for most people who develop them. It is possible to prevent and treat calluses on feet.
How are Calluses on Feet Formed?
Runners, dancers and pretty much anyone who spends a lot of time exerting a lot of pressure on their feet are likely to develop feet calluses. What happens is that the pressure and friction exerted on the balls of the feet or heels leads to the development of calluses.
They develop at the ‘bony’ areas of the feet where metatarsal bones are located. These are the regions of the feet that bear most of the body’s weight and hence suffer from the most friction. It is for this reason that calluses are often observed around the second metatarsal area.
Dry skin, reduced fatty tissue (noted in the elderly) and holding object regularly are other ways calluses could possibly be developed.
There are people who naturally are prone to developing calluses, because their feet lack adequate cushioning tissue. Calluses are also commonly seen in the elderly, obese people and people with flat feet.
How to Distinguish Foot Calluses from Corns or Other Blemishes
Corns can be described as small circular patch of hardened skin featuring defined edges. They often develop on the sides and top of the feet. They can also develop on the soles of feet or bony areas of the body with minimal cushioning.
Corns are commonly formed by wearing ill-fitting shoes such as pointed high-heels that squeeze the toes or loose fitting shoes. They are in essence a symptom of another problem. It could be indicative of a bunion, which is characterized by the pointing outwards of the big toe. It could also be a symptom of the hammertoe, which the toe gets bent at the middle.
Wearing improperly fitting footwear, walking barefoot and having an abnormal gait also form calluses.
The main distinction between calluses and corns is that calluses tend to be larger compared to corns. Calluses also do not have defined edges as corns do. Calluses are also not as sensitive to the touch, because they tend to be thicker.
How to Diagnose Calluses on Feet
Calluses on feet present themselves with the following symptoms:
- Burning and throbbing of the foot
- A circular patch of thickened skin usually over a bony area of the foot
- Discoloration of the thickened patch of skin often a yellowish/brown color
Once you notice any of these symptoms it is important to see a podiatrist, foot doctor, when you notice that you have developed calluses.
Calluses are diagnoses through physical examination and an x-rays in severe cases.
How to Treat Calluses
Treating calluses on time is important to prevent them from getting infected. They are often painless, but when they get infected they could lead to additional bothersome symptoms. These include swelling, pain, fever, tenderness around the callus and pus oozing out of the callus.
To get a callus treated the first step should be to see a podiatrist. The podiatrist may ask questions about your daily activities and medical history in order to identify the underlying cause of the callus.
The podiatrist will normally remove the thickened dead skin cells use a sharpened blade. The process is relatively painless and it does help to alleviate the pain. Self-care advice is also given and this may involve using special insoles.
- Soaking the affected foot warm water then filling out the callus. A pumice stone should be used to smoothen the thickened skin.
- Using pads that contain salicylic acid to help in dissolving the thickened skin.
- Placing non-medical pads around calluses to aid in pressure relieve.
They say that ‘prevention is better than cure’ and the same applies when it comes to calluses. Some of the ways to prevent the development of calluses include:
- Always drying the feet well after washing and using moisturizing foot creams to oil the feet.
- Wearing proper fitting shoes and orthotics if need be to reduce friction.
- Change soles regularly and replace worn out shoes, to ensure that your feet are always well cushioned.