Corn Treatment and Prevention
Corns are a common foot complaint treated by Podiatrists; nearly 50% of us will have suffered from them. Common home treatments include using corn plasters, however I have seen corn plasters cause more problems than they helped!
Podiatrists treat corns by removing the layers of skin and you should get faster relief. So before you are tempted to use the corn plasters keep on reading to find out more, including how to prevent them.
Corns: What are they?
Corns can be described as areas of the skin that have thickened to the point of becoming painful and irritating. They are often layers and layers of skin that have become compacted, dry and rough.
To form a corn the skin thickens initially to protect itself but reaches a point where it cannot continue to grow outwards, as there is either body weight or high pressure from the shoe, which causes the thickened skin to develop a deeper plug forming a corn.
Most people believe that corns have roots and if the root of the corn were removed then the corn would never return. This is of course not the case – corns do not have roots!
What causes them?
Corns are caused by abnormal pressure and friction known as mechanical stress. Your foot shape can make you more susceptible, because if the bones of the foot are misaligned and excessive pressure is exerted over a particular area, it can result in severe hard skin and corn formation. This is frequently seen on high, and low, arched feet.
Footwear is also an important factor in causing corns. Tight fitting pointed shoes that cause the toes to pinch together and rub against the toe box of the shoe. Particularly if you wear high-heeled pointed shoes, they change the alignment of the foot and generate excessive forces through the balls of the feet.
Wearing shoes and sandals without socks can also cause friction on your feet.
Corns can also occur if you have enlarged Bony prominences such as bunions or structural toe deformities such as hammer toes or claw toes, which become prone to increased pressure.
A qualified podiatrist can advise on the main reason why the corns have occurred and treat by removing corns painlessly and safely. If the cause of the corn is removed, i.e. shoe pressure or the feet realigned by Orthotic Therapy, then it may be possible to eradicate the corns permanently.
Self-treating with corn plasters
Corn plasters tend to be used by patients as a quick cheap way of pain relief with the belief that the corn will be gone permanently.
Corn plasters use acid to remove the corn and have traditionally been regarded as a temporary solution, with a visit to the podiatrist for gentle removal with a scalpel as the most effective.
I personally don’t recommend using corn plasters as I have seen all too often they cause more problems than help. Medicated corn plasters contain a caustic acid (salicylic acid) that causes tissue destruction by dissolving keratin (protein that makes up skin and corns) and can result in severe inflammation, sepsis and ulceration developing on the corn site. Corn plasters often can slip from the area of the corn (due to sweaty feet after a long day) to healthy skin and tissue and consequently burn off healthy skin.
If you are diabetic it is particularly important not to use corn plasters, but you should consult with your podiatrist regarding the treatment of corns. This is because most people do not realise that the medication they are taking can affect their circulation, and that the restrictions mentioned on the medicated corn plaster containers actually refer to them. Nevertheless, corn plasters can be obtained freely from chemists, and even specialist Foot Shops, without receiving any or very little advice.
A patient has kindly allowed me to show you what can happen when using corn plasters. She suffered with a corn between her toes, so she put on a corn plaster as best as she could. As you can see the corn plaster had shifted and caused tissue burning and damage. (The white area) To the left of the white area is where the original corn is seen. The patient had the corn plaster on for approximately 2 days, at which point she booked in to see me complaining that the toe was very sore and painful and was unable to wear shoes due to the pain. The patient was treated with sterile wound dressings to promote healing and the corn was removed. The patient in this case made a full recovery and conservative care treatment was the best option.
Ways to Prevent Corns
There are many ways to prevent painful corns such as wearing:
– Well fitting shoes that are not tight around your foot and offer support and comfort
– Flat or low heeled shoes that prevent excessive forces being transferred to the balls of the feet
– Good fitting socks
– Using a moisturising foot cream daily to keep the skin soft and elastic
– Checking footwear for foreign bodies such as dirt and fine grit
– Orthotics can also be an option particularly if the cause is the inherent shape of your foot, they are fitted by a podiatrist and help balance the foot pressures, lower friction and lower chances of getting corns, so reducing pain overall and providing better foot function.
Atty Jhita, Podiatrist