Hardened Extra Skin
Oven mitts and heat pads protect your hands or nice countertops from damage by providing a thick, extra layer between the potential damage—the heat—and the vulnerable surface. The thicker the layers are, the better the protection is. The same can be said of your skin. Thin skin in vulnerable to cuts, tears, scrapes, and blisters, while thick skin is better protected. This is why corns and calluses form, though unfortunately, they can be problematic.
Natural, Protective “Oven Mitts”
Your body naturally thickens skin in areas that need it. Frequent friction and pressure can take their toll on skin that’s too thin. Thicker layers, however, are better protected. This is why corns and calluses form on your lower limbs. Rubbing and pressure from footwear and regular walking stimulate the body to thicken the skin in the places that need it, much like putting on an oven mitt to handle hot pans. While this can sometimes be harmless, other times the natural solution can create new problems. Pressure on calluses and corns can be very uncomfortable. These patches can also signal other issues, like biomechanical problems.
The Difference between the Two
Although formed the same way and very similar, these two skin conditions are not the same thing. Corns are small and normally develop on the tops or sides of toes and feet—places that don’t bear weight. They form raised bumps of dry, rough skin. They are normally very uncomfortable to press against. Usually bad shoes are to blame.
Calluses, however, might not be uncomfortable. They are wide and flat, developing in places with high pressure, like the ball of the foot and the heel. A callus may become painful when it is too thick. Calluses look like large, waxy patches. Often they are flaky or rough. If they are too dry, they can crack under pressure.
Diagnosing corns and calluses isn’t difficult. Usually the staff at our Belvidere office can identify them in a simple evaluation. Our team may perform a few tests to rule out look-alike conditions like warts. Once the problem is identified, however, we’ll be able to begin treatments.
Softening the Skin
Treating calluses and corns isn’t difficult. Reducing the pressure and friction on your skin will allow the patches to soften. Sometimes changing your shoes is all it takes. Wear roomy styles that don’t pinch your feet and have plenty of cushioning through the sole. Adding pads might be enough to reduce pressure and friction as well. Custom orthotics can add some extra padding while also correcting biomechanical problems that may have contributed to the issue.
Particularly thick lesions might need to be pared down. Pumice stones can help smooth and grind down thick skin. It may be necessary to remove painful lesions. Never try this at home—you risk cutting healthy skin. Our staff will use a scalpel to trim the excess layers of dead skin. Occasionally, softening medications to slough the extra layers can help as well.
It doesn’t take much to develop thick patches of skin on your feet. You don’t have to live with the discomfort, however. If you’re in Belvidere or the surrounding areas, like Washington Township or Sparta Township, let Pequest Foot and Ankle Specialists help soften your skin for you. Make an appointment with us today. Just call (908) 475-8750 or use the online web request form.