Recognizing the Difference Between Calluses and Porokeratosis

Nearly everyone develops calluses on their feet, which is your skin’s way of protecting itself against pressure and friction. Most of the time, calluses are perfectly harmless, albeit a little unsightly. There are times, however, when these patches of tough skin can signal a different problem — porokeratosis.

At Neuhaus Foot and Ankle, our team boasts a depth of knowledge that covers everything from minor issues like calluses to more serious issues with neuropathy. Though we hesitate to use the word “minor” since any problem in your feet can have a widespread impact, especially if your calluses are a result of porokeratosis.

With that in mind, here’s a look at how to distinguish calluses from porokeratosis.

Calluses — a layer of protection

As we mentioned, calluses form in areas where your skin experiences excess pressure and friction, typically in your hands and feet. Calluses are thickened and hardened areas of skin, which is your body’s way of shoring up its defenses. In most cases, calluses are not only harmless, but perfectly normal, especially on the bottoms of your feet.

While calluses on the soles of your feet are commonplace, they can also develop on the tops of your toe joints, especially if you have hammertoes or bunions.

There are times, however, when these rough patches of skin can form in highly sensitive areas or develop painful fissures that leave you at risk for infection. That is of particular concern if you have an underlying condition like diabetes.

If you don’t have diabetes or you haven’t developed fissures, you can usually remedy calluses on your own through:

Again, if you do have diabetes or your calluses have become painful, we urge you to come to see us so that we can treat them properly.

Porokeratosis — a rare and potentially painful problem

If you have small, round patches of scaly skin with a thin, raised border, that may be a sign that you’re not dealing with calluses, but porokeratosis. The condition is extremely rare, affecting only 200,000 people in the United States, and the patches can develop anywhere on your body, including your feet.

When they develop on your feet, it’s usually a form of the condition called porokeratosis plantaris discreta (PPD). The scaly patches may be the same color as your surrounding skin (with no discerning border) and usually feature a white or yellowish pit in the center.

PPD can be quite painful, but the good news is that they don’t usually cause complications outside of discomfort.

To relieve the pain, we can try and shave the patches away, but they tend to reform. Instead, we may turn to prescription-strength topical cantharidin/salicylic acid to eliminate the lesion for good. That treatment is one we use for tough plantar warts, and most people report excellent results.

If you have rough patches of skin causing you pain or discomfort, please schedule an appointment at one of our locations in Hermitage, Brentwood, Nashville, Mount Juliet, Waverly, Smyrna, Gallatin, or Lebanon, Tennessee.

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