Have you had a toughened area on your skin that is difficult to remove? These areas are calluses that usually form due to repeated friction on a particular area making the underlying skin become tough and hard. Calluses are generally mild skin conditions and may not cause significant problem. However, continued pressure over the callus may cause ulceration of the skin and subsequently infection from the broken skin.

Calluses may affect all people regardless of gender or age. Nevertheless, adults commonly suffer than children due to the type of activities done. Calluses are different from corns in that the latter are overgrowth of the skin rather than the toughening of the tissue. It is also different from blisters as blisters may cause opening of the skin due to a sudden or forceful and frequent pressure. As opposed to blisters, calluses form overtime due to repeated friction (but not forceful to cause the skin to break) that allows the skin to harden and toughen.

Normally, a callus may form in any part of the skin that is subjected to constant friction. However, the most common locations are the feet and hands as these areas are exposed to friction from footwear and from frequent manual labor. In the hands, the middle finger may develop calluses due to the friction from the pencil or pen. In addition, playing instruments such  s string instruments can cause calluses in the fingers due to the frequent friction from the strings. Rock climbers can also have calluses in their fingers as a result of the contact of the hands with the rough rock surfaces. Other activities that may cause calluses in the hands include weight lifting, hiking, regular use of chef knives, construction work, martial arts, bowling, and many sports.

Calluses in the feet are more common that calluses in the hands because more friction is placed in these areas. It may result from using ill-fitting shoes, use of stilettos, regular use of high heels, ballet, sports, dancing frequently and the like.

Why Do Calluses Form?

Calluses form as a result of the compensatory mechanism of the body. The skin forms differentiated keratinocytes on the uppermost layer of the skin to make the surface more resistant to pressure. For instance, if you have been writing all day regularly, the skin on the middle finger may develop calluses to help protect the area from the constant pressure.

Despite the compensatory mechanism of calluses, the cells that form them are primarily dead cells making them resistant to chemical and mechanical trauma.  Because of this phenomenon, calluses may appear yellowish or grayish due to limited or lack of blood supply. They are also less sensitive to touch because of the thick layer that covers the underlying nerve endings.

The hyperkeratosis of the skin cells makes calluses appear and feel bumpy. Since they are dead skin cells, they can be removed manually or using callus softeners to allow the upper layer of the skin (which is dead) to be removed. However, some calluses may be deeper and may cause pain from the pressure of the hardened skin against the underlying tissues.

Calluses are generally preventable. Avoid using ill-fitting shoes to lessen the pressure or friction in the feet. Also, take some period of rest and use protective equipment in the form of gloves when doing heavy manual work.