Sunday, May 13, 2018
Is there a cure for corns?
If you ever wanted to embarrass your foot physician (podiatrist) , then ask them if they have a cure for corns. In the twenty-first century we may be able to walk on the moon, move faster than a speeding bullet, but when it comes to cure corns, we are still struggling in the dark. That doesn’t stop podiatrists from making a good living making our corns more palatable, but the plain fact is there is nothing in a bottle or tube, so far anyway, that can cure them. That day may be light years away, so what is so difficult about the eradication of a corn?
Corns are organised concentrations of skin cells (keratinocytes) associated with intermitted and external, mechanical stresses. These are usually complex combinations of friction, pressure, and shearing sometimes caused by ill-fitting shoes, but conditions, apply. Prolonged mechanical stresses caused by walking are thought to damage skin cells which release chemicals into the blood stream. These activate enzymes like compounds, responsible for skin growth, which either start to over produce skin cells forming callous, or maintain regular replacement with no obvious hard skin. Biochemical control varies with individuals which helps explain why some people seems to suffer from the painful blighters, and others not.
Callus describes general thickened skins whereas corns are reserved for inverted cones pushed into the skin by external means and surround by callus.
Do corns have roots? An emphatic NO! The concentrated mass, or 'nucleus', which is associated with discomfort, inflammation and pain are forged by external twisting forces acting intermittently on the skin. When met with resistance from hard surfaces beneath the skin, such as bone then a corn is likely to appear. Corns represent permanent change in local skin formation and hence no matter what treatment is given they will return in some form or other.
People have suffered from corns since the beginning of time and no surprise to discover the ancient Greeks invented the first skin scrapers. These also represent the first surgical scalpels.
Corn cures have also been around from antiquity but it took to the sixteenth century and the introduction of the Quack Act in England before corn cutters purveyed a weird and wonderful array of corn curing elixir. These varied from pastes made from cow dung, soaps made with brass filings and oil, to alcohol solutions of lavender brandy. All had their day and none of them worked. Today most corn cures contain salicylic acid, which helps soften the corn. The acid also irritates tissues causing the corn to separate from the rest of the skin. In normal healthy individuals the resulting breakdown may heal quickly but for people living with compromised immune response systems this can become infected. Hence manufactures recommend caution and do not encourage self-care by diabetics and people with compromised circulations.
Perhaps the most bazaar corn treatment comes from India where in the 1930s the Indian Army had Corn Cutter Wallahs. They worked freelance and served the local garrison. To treat a corn, the wallahs pared away the overlying skin before using a piece of horn tubing in a straw fashion to suck on the skin. They created a vacuum with their tongue before replacing it with wax or plasticine. The horn was left to hang freely for approximately hour as they tended to other clients. The vacuum put the harden mass of the corn under intense pressure and literally liquefied it. Over sixty minutes the once solid corn was drawn painlessly drawn out until it appeared as an exude of blood and tissue under the seal.
Depending on the skill of the corn cutter wallahs, some would amaze curious onlookers by using glass tubes, which clearly demonstrated the sucking out of the corn process. Fascinating stuff and would have to say, I have seen it done.
This method was later adapted to orthodox medicine and became known as Bier’s Cupping Process and was used to induce a passive hyperaemia (increased blood supply) to encourage the body to use natural healing processes. Still back to ground zero, if you suffer painful corns or persistent painful feet then consult your podiatrist, they may not have a miracle cure, but they do know what they are doing, are highly skilled, and can give you, hours of happy walking.