What are Calluses?

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  • Written By: Archana Khambekar
  • Edited By: J.T. Gale
  • Last Modified Date: 29 November 2019
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Calluses are hardened areas of skin that develop due to continuous pressure or friction. They often occur on the bottom of the feet, and on palms and fingers. They can look yellowish or grayish in color. Taking measures to prevent pressure or irritation generally enables the callused area to recover. A pumice stone or a topical salicylic acid product typically can help clear the callus, or a doctor could excise the toughened skin.

Some people get calluses on their fingers and hands from playing musical instruments or from clutching too hard when exercising. On feet, they typically form on the heel, or on the underside or outside of the big toe. Foot calluses can be caused by wearing high-heeled or tight shoes, obesity, a faulty gait, or having an odd shaped foot or toe. People with an abnormality such as a bunion, which is a bulge at the bottom of the big toe, might develop calluses. Sometimes the problem will occur following a foot surgery or a foot injury, which disturbs the underlying bone structure.

A callus is basically made up of dead skin cells. It is formed because of hyperkeratosis, a process that involves the thickening of the skin’s outer layer at the site of pressure or irritation. In a way it protects the part of the body which is being chaffed or is under pressure.


The affected area may seem like a raised lump and feel coarse and dry to the touch. A large lesion on the foot could cause pain when walking. While one might experience discomfort, it is usually not a serious disorder.

Sometimes people attempt to rip their calluses off or snip them with sharp instruments. Doing so might aggravate the problem by causing an injury or infection. A lesion could get better when the area is no longer subjected to pressure or irritation. Putting on a pad made from a soft material around the affected area sometimes can relieve pressure and facilitate healing.

A pumice stone might help wear out the hardened layer. It is usually easier to remove the callus build-up if it is soaked in warm water for a few minutes. A moisturizing lotion can be applied to make the area softer.

Plasters and gels are frequently available over-the-counter to treat these lesions. Salicylic acid is the often used ingredient in these products. Usually, one needs to be careful when applying the product on the skin as salicylic acid can cause irritation. People who suffer from diabetes are cautioned not to use these non-prescription treatments.

A callus that appears inflamed or hurts a lot might require medical attention. People who are diabetic could develop complications from this condition, hence it is recommended they consult a doctor. In some cases a doctor might take out the callused layer. A doctor could advise using pads or inserts in the shoe to alleviate the problem. Antibiotics might be prescribed if there is an infection in the area.

A measure that could prevent a foot callus is purchasing footwear that fits comfortably and supports the feet well. Opting for low-heeled shoes often helps. Wearing proper socks can ease the stress on the feet. One could try orthotic products commonly available at drugstores and sporting goods outlets to lessen the friction and pressure that contributes to growth. Gloves worn when working with tools and pads worn when exercising could help guard the hands.


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Do you have itching if you have a foot callus?

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