There are several differences between a corn and a bunion. The most prominent of these is that a corn is essentially a skin related condition that may affect the nerves in the feet. A bunion, on the other hand, is a bone-related condition that may ultimately irritate the skin.
A corn forms when skin on the top or bottom of the feet becomes callused. The callus can begin to push into the skin layers causing a sharp point that can jab at or irritate the nerves. This can cause pain when any pressure is exerted on the area.
Normal treatment for corn removal includes using a pumice stone to scrape off the corn. Some people also use pads, which help to "melt" the corn. However, people with diabetes should not undertake home treatment. They are greatly susceptible to foot infection and should have their feet evaluated and treated by a physician.
A bunion occurs when one of the bones in the toes, normally the big toe, begins to grow in toward the other toes. This can be caused by wearing high-heeled, pointed shoes, but may also occur in people who wear relatively comfortable and roomy shoes. People with flat feet are more likely to develop this condition. Career ballet dancers may also be at greater risk from the unnatural position of the feet in toe shoes. Some medical research suggests this bone malformation may be in part genetically predetermined.
This awkward growth of the bone forces the bone to jut outward, resulting in a big red bump on the toe. It may be quite painful to have any pressure, as from a shoe, applied to this bump. In early stages, pain from the condition may be relieved with bunion pads. For some people the malformation truly affects ability to walk around or perform their normal level of work.
In these cases, there are many different surgeries, which may remove the bunion, shave down the malformed bone, or retard the bone from further growth. Podiatrists have literally dozens of different surgical options for relieving pain, and one option may be better than another depending on where the bunion forms.
Bunion growth is thus a more serious condition than development of a corn. Both can be very painful and inhibit walking. However the bunion, if severe, may need to be addressed surgically. The corn rarely ever requires surgical treatment.