The cost of corns

If you have ever suffered with corns on your feet, you will know how painful they can become if left untreated. There are numerous types of corns, but all of them can affect quality of life in some way. At their worse, they can even lead to infection and sepsis, but so can some of the treatments that are readily available for them. Medicated corn plasters are the bane of life for many a Chiropodist / Podiatrist / Foot Health Professional. The acid within them is designed to “burn out” the corn, but it doesn’t know the difference between corny tissue and healthy skin. So it can also “burn” the latter, often causing more pain and complications than the original corn.
Now you may be surprised to hear that corns are curable, and that can be permanent. However it does take some work from both the patient and Foot professional, so instead many choose the easier option of regular corn removal (which involves gentle removal with a scalpel or drill bur) as they often keep re-forming after normal treatment. But for those who offer curative treatments and for those patients who choose permanent resolution, the results can be transformational. Take a look at this video to hear directly from a former corn-sufferer about the difference it can make to quality of life, happiness, and activity levels:

So lets look at the costs involved:

Physical costs – Painful corns at best will cause you to function differently during your activities of daily living. For instance, they can make you walk abnormally to alleviate the pain, and this compensation can cause damage to other tissues near the corn or further away elsewhere in the body (eg knee, hip, low back). Indeed the old adage “when your feet hurt, you hurt all over” may well have been initially coined because of corns. At worse, corns can lead to tissue breakdown & ulceration beneath them, especially in higher risk diabetic feet and those with circulatory problems (peripheral vascular/arterial disease). It is more common than you may think that this then leads to amputation of a toe, a foot, or even a leg.

Emotional costs – Corns can stop you from wearing your favourite shoes for a wedding or night out, or from doing your favourite activities. Physical exercise is key to a healthy life, including mental wellbeing. If your corns stop you from walking, running, hiking, dancing, gardening etc., then the knock-on effect can be significant, even leading to depression and isolation.

Financial costs – As you may already have gathered from the two previous articles in this series, the financial cost of not treating foot problems early can add up. Corns are no exception to this, with the general rule of thumb that the worse the corn is, the more it will cost to fix it. So what does it cost to have them professionally treated? Unless you have significant health issues, then you probably won’t be able to get corns treated on the NHS, and even if you did then permanent cures are rarely offered. Privately you could see a Chiropodist / Podiatrist / Foot Health Professional to have them removed each time they occur, at a possible cost of £20-£80. But this cost can mount up if the corns need removing regularly. Not everyone removes them to the same depth, so you may need more frequent lifelong treatments if you see one Foot person compared to another. As an example, one person charging £30 that you need to see each month, means an annual cost of £360. Whereas another person charging £50 that you only need to see every two months, would mean an annual cost of £300, thereby actually providing a cost-saving for you of £60 a year.
Then there is the cost of optional treatment plans to provide permanent improvement (so requiring only occasional treatment afterwards) or even cure of the corn(s). These aren’t available in many places possibly due to lack of knowledge/experience and unfortunately unethical incentives to not providing them. As these treatment plans may involve special insoles, footwear, repeated visits, and even surgical procedures, the cost could be £500+ but that would still be the most cost-effective option.

Jonathan Small, Lead Podiatrist, www.healthfirstsoutham.co.uk

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