Smoker's corns are notoriously difficult to treat. Surgeons often refuse to operate on these neurovascular corns.
There's next to no medical literature why they're so different (to normal corns.)
There's debate in the Podiatry world about whether they actually exist (they do).
They cause exquisite pain, bleed — and come back much faster than normal.
Smokers Corns: Symptoms and Cure
When I first graduated, I was lucky enough to take on some patients from a retiring Podiatrist.
One of these was a lady in her early forties. A lone parent of errant teenagers, she was also a pack-a-day smoker.
Now, I'd heard about these neurovascular corns that cigarette smokers got in college.
How painful they were. How they bled and how little was known about them.
But I'd never seen them.
Anyways, this lady took her socks off: and there they were: the fabled smoker's corns.
What is a Smoker's Corn?
A smoker's corn is a foot corn unique to some cigarette smokers.
They share the same underlying cause as other corns. But they're distinct for several reasons:
Smoker/Neurovascular Corn Signs and Symptoms
This patient's corns were very different from ones I'd seen before. They stood out from her foot like rubber buttons on a drinks coaster.
They were a translucent white, like a soft corn. Unlike a soft corn, these were on the bottom of her feet.
When I pared away the overlying hard skin, it was rubbery and resistant.
A Lot of Time (and Callus Softener)
The neurovascular corns underneath her little toes were excruciating.
So much so, I had to alternate between corns to allow one to cool off.
I continued to see this patient every six weeks or sooner if her budget allowed.
It wasn't uncommon for her to ring me after a month asking for an emergency appointment.
Typical appearance of a smoker's corn.
What Causes Smokers Corns?
The clue is in the name here. These corns are unique to cigarette smokers.
But for unclear reasons, not all smokers get them.
Are They Neurovascular Corns?
Smoker's corns are often categorized as neurovascular corns. This means they have tiny blood vessels and nerves.
This is about as near as it gets to the white, firm tissue that lurks underneath a smoker's corn.
Why Does Smoking Cause Corns?
No one knows exactly and to my knowledge, there's no studies on it.
But we do have a clue.
There's research that looked into hard skin on smokers' feet that's given us some insights.
One of the findings was that cigarette smoke damages the building blocks of our skin, elastin and collagen.
After all, smokers get early wrinkles and face skin damage.
But elastin and collagen are key to skin all over your body, even skin INSIDE.
It seems that for some people, smoking makes their body produce a sort of mutant corn tissue.
What We Do Know - Quitting Works
Now for the good news. I didn't see my patient for months after our last appointment.
Then out of the blue, she rang. She once again took her socks off and once again I was shocked.
There were two tiny, meek-looking corns left. They were hardly painful, and had taken the entire time since I last saw her to grow back.
She explained how she'd quit smoking four months before.
Many Podiatrists report similar results in their patients that quit tobacco.
Home Treatment of Smokers Corns
Most foot corns respond great to a generous daub of Gehwol Fusskraft Blue every day for a week or so.
But remember smoker's corns aren't little dry seed corns.
In other words, they may need something a bit stronger like Gehwol Fluid.
Sometimes, though, smoker's corns need skilled removal, with a scalpel.
They can also require insoles custom-made for your feet to cushion the corn sites.
Women (Have Worse Feet Than Men)
Yep, and it's all down to that ballet-tight footwear.
Fashion is an integral part of your life. Society says so — like corsets.
But it's not only shoes and buying apparel online is a double-edged razor.
You can access stuff you'd never see down your McHigh Street for sweatshop prices.
Then it rocks up and looks (or fits) decidedly different from advertised.
If you've got Amazon Prime, use Try Before You Buy.
You can order six items (including shoes, kids and men's clothes) and cavort in front of a mirror trying them for 7 days. You only pay for what you decide to keep.
(Returns are free).
As the number of tobacco addicts decreases, so do the amount of smokers corns.
But they're still around, and present a trying problem to patient and Podiatrist alike.
As unusual and painful as they are though, there's a very easy solution to them - stop smoking.
Or at the very least switch to non-tobacco replacements.