Corn plasters are a medicated treatment marketed for the quick and easy removal and treatment of corns. They are readily available in most shops and chemists – I have even seen them sold in a petrol station! They can be brought relatively cheaply with no advice, guidance or prescription and the only “warning” on the box is that they shouldn’t be used by people who have diabetes or circulatory problems.
What are corns?
Corns are a cone shape of hard skin caused by pressure and friction which could be caused by ill fitting footwear, changes in foot structure which in turn can affect your gait (the way you walk) or bony deformities. They can be particularly painful and limit walking and footwear.
But be aware
They cause many problems I see in clinic and I don’t think ANY person regardless of age, medical conditions should use them
What are Corn plasters?
Corn plasters are a strip with a medicated centre which is designed to go over the corn and be left on and dry for a number of days. They are designed to burn the centre of the corn away removing the pain associated. The pink paste you see in a corn plaster is made up of 40% salicylic acid which is designed to burn away the hard skin associated with the corn.
What is wrong with salicylic acid?
Unfortunately, the salicylic acid in Corn plasters cannot distinguish between healthy skin and corn and, as a such, can burn the skin quite severely spreading to surrounding healthy skin. The paste in corn plasters spreads to surrounding tissue blistering and burning the skin. The corn and the surrounding skin become white and soggy and more often than not the centre where the corn was remains with the skin beneath becoming fragile and breaking down under the weight of the corn. This leads to wounds, ulcers and infection. This is particularly important to avoid for people with diabetes and circulatory conditions as well as those who are immunocompromised but they can more often than not affect healthy young people too!
At least once a week in clinical practice, I will have someone come to me for a painful corn, they have usually tried every treatment available over the counter either to no avail and have further problems made worse by these corn plasters. When I debride the hard skin, I will find the skin has ulcerated beneath and this requires debridement and a regular dressing plan to get the skin stable again. For those who aren’t squeamish there is a great video which shows just how the acid affects the skin and how a podiatrist will debride it.
So, I suggest it is best to avoid using corn plasters all together – I would even like to see these completely removed from shop floors all together!
Let’s look at some alternative treatments which are safer to use.
See a Podiatrist
Firstly, it is best to look at the route cause of the problem first. Have you started wearing a new pair of shoes before the corn started? Recently started a new activity? Have you had a recent injury? If you aren’t sure why it has started forming; speak to a Podiatrist – we are very good detectives and can explore the reasons for the corn developing and discuss ways to prevent it in the future. This may be using a wedge, insole or changing footwear style or shape.
The podiatrist can also enuculate the corn. This means using a scalpel to remove the corn shape of hard skin (corn). The skin that forms a corn and callus is “dead” and thus has no feeling so this is a painless experience.
Corn pads (pad not plaster) can also help if you are unable to visit a podiatrist. These are a donought shape of foam and they are placed over the corn so the corn sits in the hole. This works to deflect the pressure away from the corn. They will only work whilst they are worn, so it is important in the long term to address the cause of the problem.
Remember to contact us should you wish to discuss any foot problem you may have. “