Philadelphia Tri-state Area Podiatrists Answer Foot Health Questions

We believe that every question deserves a good answer. Healthmark Foot and Ankle provides you the best up-to date information for your concerns.

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  • What is hyperkeratosis?

    Hyperkeratosis means “thickening skin,” and can occur with a number of different foot conditions. Hyperkeratosis on its own is not necessarily painful or even worrisome, as long as it is not being caused by an underlying condition. 

    For example, there may be thickened skin on your heels or the soles of your feet. This is your body’s natural reaction to pressure and a way of protecting your body from injury and infection. If you were to walk barefoot on a thorn or step on a spider, the calluses on your feet will reduce the pain or sting, protecting the rest of your body.

    However, thickened skin can also be a symptom of a bigger problem. Corns are often covered by a hardened layer of skin, but it is not the callus that is causing the pain. Calluses—and corns—occur in areas of continual pressure. Most often, this pressure is caused by tight or badly-fitted shoes. The corn develops much like a grain of sand at the center of a pearl. The longer the patient wears the shoes, the more layers of skin will build to protect the injury, like an oyster covering the sand to make it smooth.

    Eventually, as the corn grows, the pressure will become unbearable and the patient will either have to change footwear to allow the corn to recede or undergo corn removal surgery. 

    In order to find corn pain relievers that work, it is important to remember that friction and pressure are the only ways a person can suffer a corn. By removing the source of pressure, many patients will experience immediate relief as they allow the corn to heal.

    For more corn removal advice from a trusted Philadelphia podiatrist, contact HealthMark Foot & Ankle Associates today at 610-565-3668 in Media or at 610-933-8644 in Phoenixville to set up a consultation. 

  • How can I tell if I have a “soft” corn?

    Many people who are suffering through their days with a soft corn have no idea what it is. They assume that they have dead skin between their toes, or they have athlete’s foot—causing them to try ineffective treatments that will not relieve the pain. 

    A soft corn is a corn between the toes, usually between the fourth and fifth toe. The corn usually forms due to an underlying bone spur, and the pinching and rubbing of footwear causes the patient extreme pain. It is called a “soft” corn because the moisture of your foot will keep the skin from callousing, causing a buildup of white, mushy skin over the corn.

    A soft corn should be treated carefully, since the affected area is a prime location for bacteria. Open sores may easily become infected, so over-the-counter corn treatments should not be used on soft corns. Patients should first try relieving the pressure on the corn by placing foam pads or cotton between the toes to cushion their footsteps. Regular foot washing and a small amount of antibiotic ointment will reduce the risk of infection as your corn heals. 

    If the corn does not go away on its own, patients may choose to have their corns removed. Surgery may involve removal of the corn and the bone spur underneath it in order to prevent the corn from coming back.

    If you think you may be suffering from soft corns in Phoenixville, the podiatrists at HealthMark Foot & Ankle Associates can help you recover. Call us today for an appointment in Media at 610-565-3668 or in Phoenixville at 610-933-8644, or click the link on this page for a FREE copy of our book, The Foot is Not an Island: Recognizing Vitamin D Deficiency & How to Correct It.

  • What is the difference between a corn and a callus?

    There’s a tender spot on your foot. You’re pretty sure it’s a corn, but you’ve never had one before…and it could just be a mark where your shoes rub against your toes. So, how can you begin to treat it if you’re not sure what it is?

    While they both have a tendency to cause pain, there are a few general differences between calluses and corns: 

    • Calluses are flat areas of tough, thickened skin caused by repeated pressure or rubbing against your foot. They are your body’s way of protecting the inner layers of your skin; by turning the outer surface hard and tough, the inner tissues are less exposed to heat, cold, or penetration. Calluses are often found on the bottoms of the feet but can also form on the tops and sides of the feet and the heels—especially if there are seams inside your shoes that rub against your feet.Calluses can be removed with a pumice stone or by cutting away the dead skin. However, to prevent a number of complications that could result from removing too much skin or cutting too deeply, you may want to consider seeking the help of an experienced podiatrist. 
    • Corns are rounded bumps that often appear dry, waxy, or discolored. Like calluses, they are caused by excessive, repeated pressure on the foot. Unlike calluses, corns have a core that points inward. That core can press on nerves and cause intense pain. The thickening of the skin that occurs with both corns and calluses is called hyperkeratosis. Corns often can be treated with cushioned pads and proper footwear; if they persist, a doctor can remove them. Using an over-the-counter treatment that contains acid to treat a corn can result in damage to healthy tissue around the corn.

    The team at Healthmark Foot and Ankle Associates has years of experience treating corns in Philadelphia. We can help you kick your painful foot problem, so call either of our two locations and set up a consultation today. For our Media office, call 610-565-3668, and for our office in Phoenixville, call 610-933-8644.

  • Are there special socks I should get if I have (or am prone to) corns?

    Some socks work better than others for preventing corns. It’s important to make sure the socks you wear fit well and allow your feet to breathe. The general rules for socks that relieve corn pressure are:

    • Wear them! Many people opt to go sockless in the summertime—a prime reason they develop painful corns. Socks allow for padding between the shoe material and your foot; without it, your toes are likely to rub against the seams inside your shoes. 
    • Good material, small seams. Cotton or cotton-blend socks provide a good buffer for your toes, but make sure the top seam doesn’t rub against the top or sides of your foot. If necessary, you can turn your socks inside out to make them more comfortable while your corn heals.
    • Stretch them out. Tight socks constrict the toes and make corns more painful, and they put you at risk for developing additional foot ailments.  
    • But don’t stretch them too much. Loose socks can bunch up inside the shoe, so make sure you’re wearing the proper size sock for your foot. You should be able to comfortably wiggle your toes inside your shoe without bunching the sock.
    • Separate your toes. If your toes are unusually shaped, there is a greater chance they will rub together and cause corns. There are special socks for corns that separate the toes and allow your feet to heal, but these are usually worn underneath another pair of socks.

    At Healthmark Foot & Ankle Associates, our Phoenixville podiatrists can help get you back on your feet, starting with an over-the-phone consultation. Call us at 610-565-3668 in Media or 610-933-8644 in Phoenixville to make an appointment today. 

  • Should I treat my corns myself with salicylic acid?

    The temptation to treat your corns yourself can be great.

    After all, your local neighborhood drug store likely carries products that contain a special compound called salicylic acid, which has the potential to dissolve the dead skin and keratin that comprise your corn. Moreover, corns—even painful, debilitating ones—may seem "self-treatable."

    But self-treating corns—by using salicylic acid or other over-the-counter therapies—can be ineffective and even dangerous.

    For instance, salicylic acid can burn away the keratin and unwanted tissue…as well as other healthy parts of your foot! The acid burn can thus set the stage for severe infection. If your immune system is already compromised—if, for instance, you have metabolic syndrome, or peripheral arterial disease or some other compromising condition—then a simple trip to drug store gone wrong can lead to life-threatening secondary complications.

    Here's another thing to remember: corns are often symptomatic of larger problems that your podiatrist can help you address. 

    For instance, you might be wearing the wrong type of shoes for your work. Or you might suffer from a genetic bone deformation or other structural problem with your feet that, if left unaddressed, will continue to cause you problems (and cost you money) over the longer term.

    The podiatrists here at the Healthmark Foot & Ankle Associates in Philadelphia can help you develop a strategic “battle plan” not only to resolve your current corn problems, but also to keep your feet healthy and beautiful for a long time going forward.

    Sometimes in life, the path of least resistance is actually the most fraught and expensive path. Yes, you may have a drugstore just down the street. It might be easier to go grab a “quick-fix” solution at your pharmacist's shop. But if you really want to understand and solve your corns for good, give our team a call at 610-565-3668.