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Bunions, corns and calluses

 


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Class
Feet and skin
Description
A bunion (hallux valgus) is a bony lump at the base of the big toe that causes the big toe to turn inwards towards the other toes. The bunion may rub against the inside of the shoe causing it to become red, swollen and painful, especially when walking.

Corns and calluses are areas of thickened skin caused by pressure or friction on the skin. Corns are small areas of hard skin, usually about the size of a pea that may develop on the top or side of toes and between the toes. Calluses are larger areas of thick skin that may develop on the soles of the feet.
Causes
Most people develop bunions as a result of wearing ill-fitting shoes. Shoes with high heels and pointed toes can be particularly troublesome as body weight forces the toes into a confined area, putting a lot of pressure on the big toes.

Some people are more likely to develop bunions than others, either because of a family history of the complaint or because of the way they walk. Flat feet or low foot arches, arthritis in the toe joints or deformities of the feet may all increase the chances of getting bunions if they cause the big toe to rub against the shoe.

Corns and calluses form on the areas of the foot where there is pressure from the weight of the body or a tight fitting shoe. When the pressure becomes excessive, some areas of the skin thicken as a protective response. Corns occur over bony parts of the foot such as joints. A callus can appear anywhere the skin rubs against a bone or shoe.
Symptoms
Bunions, corns and calluses can all be painful. A bunion can make walking difficult because of the swelling.
Treatment
Once a bunion has developed it cannot be cured, however you can stop further damage by wearing shoes with a straight inside edge and rounded toe.

You can use a pumice stone to remove the thickened skin of corns and calluses gradually while you are in the bath. Foam padding can be used to relieve pressure and cushion the affected area.
When to consult your pharmacist
Talk to your pharmacist if you are concerned about problems with your feet. There are a number of over the counter products such as corn plasters and gels containing salicylic acid that can be used to remove the hard skin of corns and calluses. If your toes are rubbing against one another or against your shoes, protective pads can be used to relieve the pressure.

The pharmacist may recommend paracetamol or ibuprofen if you are experiencing a lot of pain. Always tell the pharmacist if you have any other illnesses or if you are taking any other medicines.

If you have bunions or more severe corns and calluses, your pharmacist will advise you to see a chiropodist or your doctor. Always tell your pharmacist if you have diabetes as you should not treat problems with your feet yourself, but should seek medical advice.
When to consult your doctor
If your bunion is exceptionally painful, your doctor may arrange for you to have corrective surgery to realign the toe joint.

If you have diabetes and develop any sort of foot problem, you should always seek medical advice.
Living with bunions, corns and calluses
If you have a bunion or if simple over the counter remedies have not eased your corns and calluses you should make an appointment to see a Health Professions Council (HPC) registered podiatrist/chiropodist in your area. (see Living with bunions, corns and calluses below)

Once a bunion has developed it cannot be cured, however you can stop further damage by wearing shoes with a straight inside edge and rounded toe. Your podiatrist/chiropodist may also suggest that you wear protective pads or insoles to ease the pressure. In severe cases, you may be referred for surgery to realign the big toe.

You can use a pumice stone to remove the thickened skin of corns and calluses gradually while you are in the bath. Foam padding can be used to relieve pressure and cushion the affected area. You should not try to cut corns and calluses yourself and do not try and remove hard skin over a bony area or joint. If the corn or callus is very painful you should see a state registered chiropodist who can remove the hard skin.

As bunions, corns and calluses all develop as the result of pressure, wear proper fitting shoes. When buying shoes, always have your feet measured, particularly children whose feet grow very rapidly.
Useful Tips
  • Wash your feet daily with warm soapy water and dry thoroughly, especially between the toes
  • Use a moisturiser if you have dry skin
  • Use a foot powder


Further information:

The Society of Chiropodists and Podiatrists is the professional body and trade union for registered podiatrists. The Society represents around 10,000 private practitioners, NHS podiatrists and students.

Leaflets on foot care and details of how to find a podiatrist/chiropodist in your area are provided on the website.

The Society of Chiropodists & Podiatrists

1 Fellmonger's Path

Tower Bridge Road

London

SE1 3LY

Tel: 020 7234 8620

www.feetforlife.org/

Reviewed on 22 November 2010


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