A callus, called a hyperkeratosis in the medical world, is an area of skin that has become tough, hard and/or discolored due to repeated friction, pressure, dry skin or other irritation. Most common on the hands and feet, calluses are usually diffused and flat in shape, one of the main things that differentiates them from corns (a heloma) and blisters, which are generally conical or circular in shape.
A callosity usually appears as thick spot or bump of skin that is either white or yellow in color. Calluses can sometimes be tender or painful. They generally appear on the plantar area of the foot near and around the heel and on the toes.
Calluses are most often caused by shoe and high heels that are too tight, too loose or rub in an uncomfortable way. Your skin begins building a protective layer in order to shield itself from further irritation. Other causes include playing instruments, using writing utensils, and using hand tools, which can form calluses on the hands over time.
In rare cases, calluses appear when no friction or rubbing occurs. These calluses can be caused by syphilis, exposure to arsenic and a benign condition called keratosis palmaris et plantaris, which can cause calluses on the non-weight bearing areas of a person’s foot.
Sites like WebMD, MedicineNet and MedScape agree that healthy people often don’t need to treat calluses, as eliminating the source of irritation that causes them (improperly fitting shoes, for example) usually leads to them disappearing on their own. Foot soaks, pedicures and other home remedies may also help eliminate a callus, as can using a pumice stone to scrub away the tough, dead skin. Do not attempt to shave away corns and calluses on your own. That removal method is best left to podiatrists, as doing it yourself can be dangerous.
People with poor blood circulation or diabetes need to take corns and calluses seriously, as they are at more risk of complications associated with the common foot ailments. If you suffer from a health condition like diabetes, you should visit a podiatrist or general health care provider rather than attempting to remedy a corn or callus on your own.
For information on home remedies for calluses, check out our article 5 Quick Ways to Remove Hard Foot Skin, Corns and Calluses