Many benign tumors can develop on your skin, including seborrheic keratosis. Seborrheic keratosis is very common, but it can be distressing to sufferers. Here are five things you need to know about seborrheic keratosis.
What does seborrheic keratosis look like?
Seborrheic keratosis presents as one or more wart-like lesions on the skin. These lesions have well-defined borders which makes them look like they're simply pasted on to your skin.
The lesions associated with seborrheic keratosis can reach sizes of more than 2.5 centimeters in diameter. They can be light tan, black, or any shade in between.
These lesions are often found on the face, shoulders, or upper torso. However, it's also possible for the lesions to form in other areas. The only areas of your skin that can't develop seborrheic keratosis are the palms of your hands and the soles of your feet, according to JAMA Dermatology.
Why does seborrheic keratosis develop?
The cause of seborrheic keratosis is not well established. It's been theorized that sun exposure plays a role in this condition because the lesions tend to develop on areas of the skin that get a lot of sun exposure. Age may also play a role as these lesions usually appear when people are in their fifties. More research is required to determine the precise cause of seborrheic keratosis.
Are any complications associated with it?
While seborrheic keratosis is a benign condition, some complications may occur. Depending on where the lesions are located, they may rub against the seams of your clothing, leading to irritation. Lesions may also lead to cosmetic concerns, especially if they develop on the face, neck, hands, or other very visible areas.
If your lesions rub against your clothing, or if you're tempted to scratch or pick at them, they may bleed or become swollen. If bacteria get inside the lesions, secondary infections can occur, according to Mayo Clinic.
Discomfort and cosmetic concerns aren't the only complications associated with seborrheic keratosis. If you have a lot of these lesions, you may not notice the development of new growths on your skin. This can make it very hard to detect problems like skin cancer. To keep yourself safe, you should get regular full-body skin cancer screenings. Your dermatologist will check your skin closely to ensure that no cancerous lesions are hiding amongst your seborrheic keratosis lesions.
What non-surgical treatments are available?
Your dermatologist can use non-surgical methods to reduce the height of your lesions or remove them entirely. Alpha hydroxy acids or trichloracetic acid can be carefully applied to your lesions to destroy them; multiple treatments may be required to fully remove the lesions.
You may be prescribed tazarotene cream, a topical medication that has been shown to improve seborrheic keratosis lesions in some people. This cream is not a quick fix: you need to use it twice a day for up to 16 weeks.
What surgical treatments are available?
If acids and creams don't work, surgical treatment will be necessary. Many surgical techniques can be used to remove seborrheic keratosis lesions.
Dry ice or liquid nitrogen can be used to freeze and destroy the lesions. Your dermatologist will apply the freezing material to your lesions with a cotton applicator. A scab will form in the treated area, and when the scab falls off, the treated area will have pink, new skin. This new skin will become normally pigmented within two to four months. Sometimes, this procedure can leave a scar.
To avoid leaving a scar, your dermatologist may remove the lesions by doing a shave biopsy. A razor-like tool will be used to scrape the lesions off of your skin. Once the majority of the lesion is gone, your dermatologist will use a scraping tool called a curette to get rid of any remaining lesion tissue. The benefit of this procedure is that it doesn't destroy the specimen, so diagnostic tests can be performed to confirm the diagnosis, if required.
If you think you're suffering from seborrheic keratosis, see a dermatologist at a clinic like Advanced Dermatology & Skin Cancer Specialists to have your skin examined.