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Seborrheic Keratosis

Written by
Dr. Sneha Kannan
and medically reviewed by Dr. Joydeep Singha

Published on Aug 29, 2019 and last reviewed on Dec 06, 2019   -  4 min read

Abstract

Abstract

Seborrheic keratosis is the most common benign skin growth in older adults, which is commonly mistaken for melanoma. Read the article to know more.

Seborrheic Keratosis

What Is Seborrheic Keratosis?

Seborrheic keratosis, otherwise called basal cell papilloma or seborrheic warts, is the most commonly seen noncancerous skin growth in adults. They are displeasing to the eye, but do not pose any harm. The only thing is, it is difficult to differentiate between this and melanoma, which is a severe type of skin cancer. So, if you notice any new growth on your skin, or if your mole changes color, shape, or texture, always consult a doctor.

It is usually pale, black, or brown growth, commonly seen on the back, shoulders, chest, or face.

It usually affects middle-aged people and might cause single or multiple skin growths. You cannot get infected from a person with seborrheic keratosis, as it is not contagious.

What Causes Seborrheic Keratosis?

As of now, the exact cause is not known. They seem to affect people as they age and are not contagious. It is seen to run in families, so genetics appears to play a role.

What Are the Symptoms of Seborrheic Keratosis?

Seborrheic keratosis:

They are not painful but can be aesthetically disturbing. Do not rub or pick them, as they can bleed, swell, or result in infection.

What Are the Types of Seborrheic Keratosis?

The following are the types of seborrheic keratoses:

  1. Common seborrheic keratosis.

  2. Reticulated seborrheic keratosis or adenoid seborrheic keratosis.

  3. Stucco keratosis.

  4. Clonal seborrheic keratosis.

  5. Irritated seborrheic keratosis.

  6. Seborrheic keratosis with squamous atypia.

  7. Melanoacanthoma.

  8. Dermatosis papulosa nigra.

  9. Inverted follicular keratosis.

How to Differentiate Seborrheic Keratosis from Melanoma?

SEBORRHEIC KERATOSIS

MELANOMA

Harmless skin growth

Skin cancer

Commonly seen in older adults

Can affect people of any age

Stays the same size

They grow and spread rapidly

Light tan or brown in color

Have a variety of colors

Waxy or scaly surface

Smooth surface

Do not bleed or ooze

Bleed or ooze

Can develop anywhere in the body

Starts as a mole or wart

a)Melanomab)Seborrheic Keratosis

image source: researchgate.net

What Are the Risk Factors for Seborrheic Keratosis?

The factors that increase the risk of seborrheic keratosis are:

  • Old age.

  • Family history.

  • Frequent exposure to sunlight.

  • Skin folds and skin friction commonly seen in individuals who are overweight.

How Is Seborrheic Keratosis Diagnosed?

Your dermatologist will be able to diagnose this condition by looking at the lesion. If needed, the dermatologist will take a sample from the growth or the entire lesion (biopsy) and send it to the lab. The tissues collected during the biopsy are then viewed under a microscope to detect cancer cells.

What Are the Treatment Options for Seborrheic Keratosis?

Generally, treatment is not necessary. But if the lesion is hard to distinguish from cancer, or if it is itching or causing discomfort or is a problem esthetically, then the lesion is removed. Some of the treatment options include:

  • Cryosurgery - With a spray gun or cotton swab, liquid nitrogen is applied to the lesion, which freezes it. The lesion dries and falls off in a few days.

  • Electrocautery - Otherwise called electrosurgery, is a method where electric current is used to burn the growth.

  • Curettage - Here, a scoop-shaped surgical instrument (curette) is used to scrape off the growth.

  • Ablation - Here, a laser is used to vaporize the growth.

All these methods might leave a slight scar, and sometimes cause new lesions to appear on other body parts.

Can Seborrheic Keratosis Be Treated at Home?

The effectiveness of home remedies is not proven and should not be tried without consulting a doctor first.

Hydrogen peroxide solution, glycolic acid solution, lemon and vinegar mixture, tea tree oil, etc., are believed to be helpful. These solutions if applied to the lesion directly with a cotton swab dries the lesion, which falls off eventually.

Always be careful while trying these home remedies, as it can result in allergic contact dermatitis.

As it looks so similar to melanoma, always get any suspicious-looking skin lesion checked by a doctor. To know more about the treatment options, consult a dermatologist online.

Frequently Asked Questions


1.

What is the best treatment for seborrheic keratosis?

It is not always necessary to treat seborrheic keratosis. It can be treated if it becomes irritated and gets uncomfortable when it rubs against the cloth. Cryosurgery is the best treatment option. Here, liquid nitrogen is used to freeze the lesion and then it is excised.

2.

How do you get rid of keratosis?

Keratosis can be treated with the help of:
- Cryosurgery - The lesion dries and falls off when liquid nitrogen is applied to it.
- Electrocautery - Here, an electric current is used to burn the growth.
Curettage - A curette is used to scrape off the growth.
- Ablation - Laser is used to vaporize the growth.

3.

What is inflamed seborrheic keratosis?

When a seborrheic becomes red and inflamed due to constant friction or injury, it is called inflamed seborrheic keratosis.

4.

Can you scratch off a seborrheic keratosis?

Seborrheic keratosis is painless and usually does not cause any symptoms. If the lesion becomes itchy or inflamed, it is best to get it removed by your dermatologist.

5.

What does seborrheic keratosis look like?

The growth has a slightly elevated and looks waxy or scaly. It can be black, brown, or light tan in color.

6.

How to prevent seborrheic keratosis?

Seborrheic keratosis is a benign growth that commonly affects older adults. There is no way to prevent it.

7.

Can seborrheic keratosis appear suddenly?

The lesion can appear suddenly and can vary in size, shape, and color. It can appear on the back, shoulders, chest, and face.

8.

Does seborrheic keratosis grow?

Yes, the lesion can grow and become as large as 3 cm in diameter.

9.

Are seborrheic keratosis itchy?

The lesion is usually painless with no symptoms, but it might become itchy and irritated sometimes.

10.

Is there a seborrheic keratosis removal cream?

A topical cream that contains Tazarotene 0.1 % can be applied twice daily for 16 weeks can improve seborrheic keratosis.

Last reviewed at:
06 Dec 2019  -  4 min read

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