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Corns are unsightly, painful and not just the province of older people. Unfortunately they are more easily prevented than cured. Home treatments are generally ineffective and can be dangerous, but a podiatrist can offer quick and painless treatment.

This painful foot complaint is nothing new : they are believed to have been described as early as 300BC by Hippocrates, credited as being the ‘father’ of medicine.  And the predecessors of modern podiatrists and chiropodists (a UK term) were ‘corn cutters’ who toured around their locality, offering relief (with the forerunner of the scalpel) in the streets, markets and at fairs.

What is a corn?

You may have been lucky enough never to have had one, or if you have, possibly didn’t recognize it for what it is. They generally appear as a circular patch of hard skin, sometimes with a visible depression or elevation right in the middle.  Some just appear as a small yellowish or white circle ‘seed corns’).

The skin around the corn may be white and moist – particularly when they appear between the toes – or red and inflamed.

Although not visible to the eye, they have a hard core which is an upside-down cone i.e. the tip of the cone points inwards.

This is one of the reasons they are so painful as whenever they are pressed that point ‘digs’ in.

Where do you get them?

The most common sites for them on the foot are on top of toe joints and on the sole - particularly over the ball of the foot – although they can occur anywhere on the foot.  As mentioned, certain types of corn can even appear between the toes.

What causes them?

They are basically caused by friction – which is mainly from shoes.  The skin of the foot is subject to Differing types of pressure and friction such as shear or compression, and this is thought to account for the different types of corn which appear on the foot. 

The most common is the hard corn, or heloma durum, while the soft ones which commonly occur between the toes are called heloma molle.

Hard skin (callus) and corns form on the foot in response to pressure and friction, in order to protect

the skin and the underlying structures. 

Although tiny they are generally very painful and in the case of people with diabetes, can be very destructive.

Who gets corns?

Many people mistakenly think of them as only affecting older people and there are many jokes about old ladies and their corns. But although less common in children than in adults, they can (and do) affect people of any age.

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