The removal of splinters/foreign bodies in hands and feet is not an uncommon cause for patients to visit our Surgery. Shards of glass & metal, splinters of wood, and thorns present themselves regularly, occasionally patients may present with more unusual foreign bodies such as needles (or part of a needle) and Sea Urchin spines.
By far the most common foreign body seen is hair, both human and animal hairs. A foreign body of human hair is common with Hairdressers and ladies who shave their legs regularly whilst showering. Animal hair foreign bodies are found predominantly in cat and dog owners. With foreign bodies of hair patients are often unaware that they have hairs embedded into the skin and will often assume they have a verruca or a corn.
When embedded into the dermis the presence of hairs (particularly human hairs) can cause the development of a ‘pseudo’ corn. These present very similar to seed corns except the ‘corn’ has a soft spongy base often with a very small sinus (opening/hole) beneath.
Although these hairs will often be out of sight to the practitioner, the presence of a sinus and a soft spongy base under a ‘pseudo’ corn would normally indicate the presence of an unseen hair deeper in the dermis.
Having ‘excavated’ the ‘pseudo’ corn the patient would normally gain an immediate relief of symptoms, but with the hair remaining in situ beyond the reach of the Podiatrists ‘excavations’ the relief of symptoms would normally be short lived.
With an ordinary corn the relief gained from a Podiatrist ‘excavating’ the corn will normally last between 4 – 8 weeks, however with a ‘pseudo’ corn (caused by a deep hair foreign body) relief of symptoms will only last for 2-3 weeks when ‘excavated’. If a patient presents with a ‘pseudo’ corn that has required repeated excavations due to the hair not ‘working its own way out’ then we would consider caustic/acid treatment.
This form of treatment is normally undertaken on verrucae, however it can provide a means of gaining access to a hair embedded within the upper layers of the dermis by producing a controlled ulcer (cavity/hole) in the skin.