HEALTH ENCYCLOPEDIA

Diseases & Conditions A - Z
powered by Talix

Seborrheic Keratosis

What Is Seborrheic Keratosis?

A seborrheic keratosis is a type of skin growth. They can be unsightly, but the growths aren’t harmful. However, in some cases a seborrheic keratosis can be difficult to distinguish from melanoma, a very serious type of skin cancer.

If your skin changes unexpectedly, you should always have it looked at by a doctor.

What Does Seborrheic Keratosis Look Like?

A seborrheic keratosis (plural: seborrheic keratoses) is usually easily identified by appearance.

Location

Multiple lesions may appear, although at the beginning there may be just one. Growths can be found on many areas of the body, including the:

  • chest
  • scalp
  • shoulders
  • back
  • abdomen

Growths are not found on the soles of the feet or the palms.

Texture

Growths often start out as small, rough areas. Over time, they tend to develop a thick, wart-like surface. They’re often described as having a “stuck-on” appearance.

They may also look waxy and have slightly raised surfaces.

Shape

Growths are usually round or oval-shaped.

Color

Growths are usually brown, but they can also be yellow, white, or black.

Who Is at Risk of Developing Seborrheic Keratosis?

Risk factors for this condition include:

Older Age

The condition often develops in those who are middle-aged. Risk increases with age.

Family Members with Seborrheic Keratosis

This skin condition often runs in families. Risk increases with the number of affected relatives.

Frequent Sun Exposure

There is some evidence that skin exposed to the sun is more likely to develop a seborrheic keratosis. However, growths also appear on skin that is usually covered up when people go outdoors.

When to See a Doctor

A seborrheic keratosis isn’t dangerous, but you shouldn’t ignore growths on your skin. It can be difficult to distinguish between harmless and dangerous growths. Something that looks like seborrheic keratosis could actually be melanoma.

Have a doctor check your skin if:

  • there’s a new growth
  • there’s a change in appearance of an existing growth
  • there’s only one growth (seborrheic keratosis usually causes several)
  • a growth has an unusual color, such as purple, blue, or reddish-black
  • a growth has borders that are irregular (blurred or jagged)
  • a growth is irritated or painful

If you’re worried about any growth, make an appointment with your doctor. It’s better to be too cautious than ignore a potentially serious problem.

Diagnosing Seborrheic Keratosis

A dermatologist will often be able to diagnose seborrheic keratosis by eye. If there’s any uncertainty, they’ll likely remove part or all of the growth. This is called a skin biopsy.

The biopsy will be examined under a microscope by a trained pathologist. This can help your doctor diagnose the growth as either seborrheic keratosis or cancer (such as malignant melanoma).

Common Treatment Methods for Seborrheic Keratosis

In many cases, a seborrheic keratosis doesn’t need treatment. However, a doctor may decide to remove any growths that have a suspicious appearance or cause physical or emotional discomfort.

Methods of Removal

Three commonly used removal methods are cryosurgery, electrosurgery, and curettage.

In cryosurgery, the growth is frozen off using liquid nitrogen.

Electrosurgery uses an electrical current to scrape the growth off. The area is numbed before the procedure.

A curettage is a scoop-like surgical instrument that is used to scrape the growth. A curettage is sometimes used with electrosurgery.

After Removal

Your skin may be lighter at the site of removal. The difference in skin color often becomes less noticeable over time. Most of the time a seborrheic keratosis won’t return, but it’s possible to develop a new one on another part of your body.


Content licensed from:

Written by: Krista O'Connell
Published on: Jun 29, 2012
Medically reviewed on: Nov 16, 2015: Steve Kim, MD

This feature is for informational purposes only and should not be used to replace the care and information received from your health care provider. Please consult a health care professional with any health concerns you may have.
health
TOOLS
Symptom Search
Enter your symptoms in our Symptom Checker to find out possible causes of your symptoms. Go.
Drug Interaction Checker
Enter any list of prescription drugs and see how they interact with each other and with other substances. Go.
Pill Identifier
Enter its color and shape information, and this tool helps you identify it. Go.
Drugs A-Z
Find information on drug interactions, side effects, and more. Go.
Advertisement

 

 

Discounts & Benefits

From companies that meet the high standards of service and quality set by AARP.

Member Benefits AT&T Wireless Cell Phone

Members save 10% on the monthly service charge of qualified AT&T wireless plans.

Member Benefit AARP Regal 2

Members pay $9.50 for Regal ePremiere Tickets purchased online.

Walgreens 1 discount membership aarp

Members earn points on select Walgreens-brand health and wellness products.

Member Benefits

Join or renew today! Members receive exclusive member benefits & affect social change.

Advertisement