In general, calluses aren’t a serious medical problem. However, the unique effects of diabetes on the nervous, circulatory, and immune systems make calluses a potentially serious health issue for individuals with diabetes. Prevention is one of the best ways to protect your feet from a callus and potential complications from diabetes.
Diabetes and callus complications
Diabetes can damage nerve endings, a condition called diabetic neuropathy. The feet are particularly susceptible to this condition, which can cause lack of feeling and numbness in the feet. Someone with this condition may not feel a callus forming, nor would they notice if an ulcer formed underneath the callus.
Additionally, diabetes affects circulation by causing a narrowing of the blood vessels in the legs and feet. Poor circulation limits and slows the body’s ability to heal. If a callus cracks, gets infected, or hides an ulcer, circulatory changes may make it difficult for the diabetic immune system to heal the body.
How do calluses form?
Calluses form in areas where repeated motion causes high friction or pressure. Biologically, the body forms the callus to protect vulnerable areas. These hardened areas of skin aren’t usually painful, but in some cases, they can become inflamed or infected. For someone with diabetes, they can hide growing problems that go unnoticed. Calluses can continue to grow over time if they’re not treated or steps aren’t taken to prevent them.
Are calluses and corns the same thing?
The terms callus and corn are often used interchangeably. However, the two are slightly different. Calluses typically form on areas that bear weight like the bottom of the feet, the knees, and the palms of the hands. Calluses can get larger than corns and don’t usually cause pain.
Corns form on non-weight bearing areas like the top and sides of the toes or feet. They have a hard center surrounded by hardened, inflamed skin. Corns usually cause pain when pressed and are much smaller than calluses.
How to prevent calluses
Daily foot checks
Diabetic neuropathy may limit your ability to feel a callus forming. Daily foot checks familiarize you with the skin on your feet and alert you to any changes. Use a mirror to check areas of the feet you can’t see on your own, and don’t forget to check between your toes. Keep an eye out for areas of redness, irritation, cuts, or blisters. Contact your doctor if they don’t heal within a day or two.
Poor-fitting shoes are a common cause of calluses. Your shoes should fit snugly but allow room for your toes to wiggle. Some individuals with diabetes find that wide or extra wide shoes work better than standard width when it comes to preventing calluses.
Be especially careful with athletic or hiking shoes. Intense, repeated movement puts more stress and pressure on the feet. A good fit along with adequate support and padding keep the feet comfortable and the skin happy. You may also need to consider orthotic inserts to help the shoes fit better and prevent excess rubbing.
Socks can cause calluses, too. Consider the fabric, thickness, and seam placement. You also need to take into account how the socks fit in each pair of shoes. Thick socks may offer extra padding and protection from rubbing, but they could make a snug pair of shoes rub the feet. Try out your sock/shoe combo before you wear the socks all day or for an intense activity.
Keep the feet clean
Sweat and dirt can contribute to skin irritation. Wash your feet every day using a gentle cleanser designed for sensitive skin, like VitalFit’s Daily Cleanser. This Daily Cleanser is soap-free to reduce potential irritation and contains natural antiseptic, antimicrobial, and antifungal ingredients to gently cleanse the skin and prevent infection.
Finally, make sure to thoroughly dry the skin, including between the toes.
Moisturize the feet
Well-hydrated skin resists friction and general wear and tear better than dry skin. Apply moisturizer to the skin every day to keep the skin strong and supple.
VitalFit’s Day Moisturizer offers an oil-free formula with antifungal, antiseptic, and antimicrobial properties to prevent potential infections. It’s effective enough that it can safely be used to moisturize between the toes.
VitalFit also offers a Night Moisturizer with jojoba seed oil, green tea leaf extract, panthenol, and other ingredients that reduce inflammation, exfoliate, and help the skin heal from daily stress. The ingredient list also includes sodium hyaluronate to create a protective barrier that helps maintain natural moisture levels.
Trim the toenails regularly
Keep your toenails trimmed. Toenails can rub on neighboring toes or press into the sides of the shoes. Use an emery board to smooth any sharp edges.
Check your shoes before putting them on
Check your shoes for rocks, sticks, or anything else that could cut or irritate your feet.
What to do if you get a callus
If you get a callus, do not try to remove it yourself. Talk to your doctor to determine if you need to have it removed. If you’re prone to calluses, your doctor may recommend using a pumice stone to prevent them from forming. However, always consult your doctor and follow their foot care recommendations.