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You are here: Home > Medical Glossary > Foot Conditions > CORNS
A corn is a specially-shaped callus of dead skin that usually occurs on thin or glabrous (hairless and smooth) skin surfaces, especially on the dorsal surface of toes or fingers. They can sometimes occur on the thicker palmar or plantar skin surfaces. Corns form when the pressure point against the skin traces an elliptical or semi-elliptical path during the rubbing motion, the center of which is at the point of pressure, gradually widening. If there is constant stimulation of the tissue producing the corns, even after the corn is surgically removed, the skin may continue to grow as a corn.
The name corn comes from its appearance under the microscope. The hard part at the center of the corn resembles a barley hare, that is, a funnel with a broad raised top and a pointed bottom. Because of their shape, corns intensify the pressure at the tip and can cause deep tissue damage and ulceration. Hard corns are especially problematic for people with insensitive skin due to diabetes, etc. The scientific name for a corn is heloma (plural helomata). A hard corn is called a heloma durum, while a soft corn is called a heloma molle. The location of soft corns tends to differ from that of hard corns. Hard corns occur on dry, flat surfaces of skin. Soft corns (frequently found between adjacent toes) stay moist, keeping the surrounding skin soft. The corn's center is not soft, however, but indurated.

People with diabetes face special skin challenges. Because diabetes affects the capillaries, the small blood vessels which feed the skin, thickening of the skin with callus increases the difficulty of supplying nutrients to the skin. The stiffness of a callus or corn, coupled with the shear and pressure that caused it, may tear the capillaries or adjoining tissue, causing bleeding within the callus or corn.

Often, bleeding within a callus is an early sign of diabetes, even before elevated blood sugars may be noticed. Although the bleeding can be small, sometimes small pools of blood or hematoma are formed. The blood itself is an irritant, a foreign body within the callus that makes the area burn or itch. If the pool of blood is exposed to the outside, infection may follow. Infection may also lead to ulceration. Luckily, this process can be prevented at several places, but such infections can become life-threatening. Diabetic foot infections are the leading cause of diabetic limb amputation.

 
The information contained on the DiabestMedical.com website is provided for your general information only. DiabestMedical.com under no circumstances recommends particular treatment for specific individuals and in all cases recommends that you consult your physician or local treatment center before pursuing any course of treatment.
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