A corn is a spot on the foot made of skin that has thickened as a response to pressure. Though the skin buildup is the body's way of protecting itself, when it goes on too long, the resulting corn can be painful. When the problem is serious enough to warrant medical attention, a podiatrist is the right professional to see about getting the corn removed. Corns are, in fact, one of the most common problems that such specialists treat.
Corns take a cone or horn shape, directed downward into the skin. The tend to appear between the toes, in which case they are soft because of the moisture present in that area, or on the outer surface of the little toe, in which case they are hard. They cause discomforting ranging from mild to severe, even to the point that walking is difficult. They can become infected, taking on a red, inflamed appearance and causing even more pain. A podiatrist is best equipped to diagnose whether your problem is indeed a corn.
Corns develop due to pressure. The pressure may arise from shoes that are ill-fitting, from foot deformities such as hammer toes or from abnormalities of gait that put pressure on certain areas of the foot. If necessary, a podiatrist can refer you to an orthotist—a professional who works on splints and braces—who can adapt a shoe to decrease pressure.
The best way to avoid corns: Wear shoes that fit correctly. In particular, they should not be too tight. Once corns have developed, a podiatrist can cut them out. But they'll come back unless the source of the pressure is addressed. Using special pads and supports within the shoes, having bony prominences removed surgically and exercising proper foot hygiene can help to prevent further problems.
Various paints and plasters are available as home remedies for corns. They eat the corn away. The problem is, they can also eat normal skin. This can result in ulcers and infections. People with bad circulation or with diabetes could end up facing amputation. Cutting the corns off yourself can also be dangerous, because this method also carries a high risk of infection. Additionally, home removal without proper follow-up care with a podiatrist yields a high likelihood that the corns will return, because the underlying issue are not be addressed.
Be sure to choose a reputable, licensed podiatrist when seeking care for corns. After completing a bachelor's degree, podiatrists must finish four years of podiatric college. The tend to be in solo practice, though group practice is not uncommon. To find a good podiatrist, go with a referral from a friend or family member, or check with the American Podiatric Medical Association.