Did you ever get a blister from a new pair of shoes? Maybe you play guitar and have calluses on your hands, or you're a dancer and have corns on your toes.
Blisters, calluses, and corns can be uncomfortable, but they're also pretty common and easy to prevent. All three happen because of friction — when two surfaces rub against each other. In the case of these skin problems, one of the surfaces is your tender skin.
A blister is an area of raised skin with a watery liquid inside. Blisters form on hands and feet from rubbing and pressure, and form a lot faster than calluses. You can get blisters on your feet the same day you wear uncomfortable or poor-fitting shoes. You can get blisters on your hands if you forget to wear protective gloves when you're doing things like using a hammer or riding a bike.
Areas on your body that form blisters and continue to be rubbed every day can go on to form calluses.
A callus is an area of thick skin. Calluses form in places where there is a lot of repeated rubbing for a long period of time. The skin hardens from the pressure over time and eventually thickens. It gets a hard, tough, grayish or yellowish surface that may feel bumpy.
Calluses can be a form of protection for the hands. Gymnasts who perform on uneven parallel bars and other apparatus often get calluses on their hands. Guitarists can get calluses on their fingertips from the guitar strings. Once formed, calluses may make it easier for the person to swing around the bars or play the guitar.
But what about calluses on the feet? They can be painful because you're stepping on them all the time. Foot calluses usually form on the ball of the foot (the roundish part on the bottom of your foot, just behind your big toe). Some calluses also form on the outside of the big or little toe or the heel.
Tight shoes and high heels often cause calluses because they put a lot of pressure on your feet at points that aren't used to all of that stress.
Like calluses, corns are also areas of hard, thick skin. They usually look like a soft yellow ring of skin around a hard, gray center. Corns often form on the tops of the toes or in between toes, and they can hurt.
Like calluses, corns come from pressure or repeated rubbing of the toes. Corns usually develop after wearing shoes that are tight around the toe area.
The best way to deal with blisters, calluses, and corns is to avoid getting them altogether. So how do you do that?
If you do get a blister, callus, or corn, you can usually take care of it at home:
Reviewed by: Steven Dowshen, MD
Date reviewed: February 2015
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