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Seborrheic Keratosis St. Louis

Close-up of seborrheic keratoses, showing raised, wart-like growths.

Have you noticed brown, black, or tan warty-like scaly bumps on your skin? Chances are, you might be dealing with seborrheic keratosis, a common noncancerous skin lesion. These growths can appear on various parts of your body, such as the chest, back, or scalp.

Seborrheic keratosis, a type of benign skin lesion, can sometimes be an annoyance since it affects visible areas of our body and can occasionally become irritated. In this article, our St. Louis dermatologists at Mid-County Dermatology located at Missouri Baptist Medical Center provide information about seborrheic keratosis.

Symptoms and Appearance of Seborrheic Keratosis

Seborrheic keratosis is a common skin condition characterized by the presence of raised bumps with a waxy or scaly texture. These bumps, also known as seborrheic keratosis lesions or simply seborrheic keratoses, can vary in size from small to several centimeters in diameter. Although seborrheic keratoses are generally benign, they can sometimes be mistaken for more serious conditions like cancerous growths such as melanoma. It is important to have any suspicious lesions evaluated by one our St. Louis dermatology team to rule out malignancy.

One of the notable features of seborrheic keratoses is their appearance. They often have a stuck-on appearance, as if they are glued onto the skin. This distinguishes them from other skin conditions such as actinic keratosis,  a pre-cancerous lesion, which are more inconspicuous. Seborrheic keratoses are common skin lesions, but thankfully are not cancerous.

These benign skin lesions (non-cancerous growths), can occur anywhere on the body but are most commonly found on areas that receive more sun exposure, such as the face, chest, back, and shoulders. They can develop individually or in clusters.

While seborrheic keratoses are generally harmless and do not pose any significant health risks to patients, it's important to differentiate them from malignant skin lesions or tumors.

In terms of symptoms, patients with seborrheic keratoses may experience hyperpigmentation and growth in the affected areas. This means that the coloration of the skin may be darker than surrounding areas due to increased melanin production. However, this is not always the case as some lesions may appear lighter than normal skin tones. Seborrheic keratoses can be dark or light brown, gray, black, tan, or skin-colored.

Symptoms and Causes of Seborrheic Keratosis

Seborrheic keratosis is a common skin condition that usually does not cause any symptoms in patients. However, in some cases, it can lead to itching or irritation, especially if it rubs against clothing or jewelry or get irritated by external factors like excessive sweating. These symptoms can be bothersome for patients with lesions and may prompt them to seek medical attention to rule out malignancy.

The exact cause of seborrheic keratosis, a benign skin lesion, remains unknown. However, several factors have been identified as potential contributors to its development, including genetics. Research suggests that certain genetic variations may increase the likelihood of developing seborrheic keratosis, a condition that is not malignant. Individuals with a family history of this benign skin lesion are more likely to develop it themselves.

Age also plays a significant role in the occurrence of seborrheic keratosis lesions. It is more commonly observed in older individuals, particularly those above the age of 40 or 50. As we age, our skin undergoes various changes, including an increase in the production of keratinocytes – the cells responsible for forming the outermost layer of our skin. This excessive production can result in the formation of seborrheic keratoses lesions.

Sun exposure has also been suggested as playing a role in their development. It is believed that ultraviolet (UV) radiation from the sun may damage the skin cells and trigger abnormal growth patterns, leading to the formation of these benign tumors.

Diagnosis and Tests for Seborrheic Keratosis

Seborrheic keratosis, a common skin tumor characterized by raised, waxy, or scaly growths with various colors ranging from tan to brown or black, is typically diagnosed through a visual examination by a dermatologist. Our Missouri Baptist dermatologists will carefully inspect the affected area for lesions and other signs and symptoms of seborrheic keratosis. While the diagnosis can often be made based on visual observation alone, there are instances where further tests may be necessary.

In cases where there is uncertainty about the diagnosis or if other skin conditions with similar appearances such as lesions need to be ruled out, a biopsy may be performed. A biopsy involves taking a small sample of tissue from the affected area for further examination under a microscope. This procedure allows the pathologist to analyze the cells and confirm whether they are consistent with seborrheic keratosis.

It's important to note that not all cases of seborrheic keratosis lesions require a biopsy. Our St. Louis dermatologists rely on their clinical suspicion and expertise to determine when this procedure is necessary. Factors such as atypical presentation, rapid growth, or unusual features of the lesions may prompt them to recommend a biopsy.

Available Treatments for Seborrheic Keratosis

Seborrheic keratoses do typically not require treatment unless the lesions cause discomfort or cosmetic concerns. However, in cases where intervention is necessary, there are various treatment modalities available to effectively address these lesions.

Cryotherapy (Freezing)

One of the options for treating seborrheic keratosis lesions is cryotherapy, which involves freezing the affected area with liquid nitrogen. This freezing process destroys the excess skin cells and allows healthier skin to grow in its place. Cryotherapy is a relatively quick and straightforward procedure that can be performed by our dermatologists at Mid-County Dermatology. It may cause mild discomfort during the freezing process but generally has minimal side effects - some scaling, blistering, and redness can be seen.

Curettage (Scraping)

Curettage, another common treatment method for seborrheic keratosis lesions, involves scraping off the growth using a curette—a small instrument with a sharp edge. The procedure begins with numbing the area to minimize any potential pain or discomfort. The dermatologist then carefully scrapes away the lesion until reaching healthy skin underneath. While this treatment option may cause some temporary redness or mild scarring, it is generally safe and effective for treating lesions.

Electrocautery (Burning)

Electrocautery is another technique used to remove seborrheic keratoses lesions. During this procedure, an electric current burns off the growths on the skin's surface. Like other treatments, electrocautery requires local anesthesia to ensure patient comfort during the process. Although it may result in minor scarring or changes in pigmentation, these effects tend to fade over time.

In addition to these primary treatment methods, laser therapy and topical hydrogen peroxide (formerly the prescription, Eskata) showed promising results in managing seborrheic keratosis lesions. Laser therapy employs focused light beams to target and eliminate abnormal skin cells, while topical hydrogen peroxide can help lighten the appearance of the growths. However, it is essential to consult with our dermatologists to determine which treatment option is most suitable for individual cases of seborrheic keratosis lesions.

When considering seborrheic keratosis removal, patients should prioritize proper aftercare for optimal healing and to minimize complications. This may involve keeping the treated area clean and moisturized as advised by their dermatologist. It is crucial to follow specific instructions provided regarding wound care, medication application, and the healing of lesions.

Outlook and Prognosis for Seborrheic Keratosis

Seborrheic keratoses are common, non-cancerous growths that typically appear on the skin as people age. While they may not pose a serious health risk, understanding the outlook and prognosis for seborrheic keratosis is important for individuals affected by these benign lesions.

  • Seborrheic keratoses are benign lesions that do not turn into cancer.

One of the key aspects to note about seborrheic keratoses is that they are entirely benign and do not have the potential to develop into cancerous tumors. This should provide reassurance to those who may be concerned about the long-term implications of these growths. Unlike other types of skin lesions, such as melanoma or basal cell carcinoma, seborrheic keratoses do not have malignant characteristics.

  • Most cases do not require ongoing treatment after removal

Once a seborrheic keratosis lesion has been diagnosed and removed by a dermatologist in an outpatient setting, most individuals will not require ongoing treatment. The removal process typically involves simple procedures such as cryosurgery (freezing), electrocautery (burning), or curettage (scraping). These methods effectively eliminate the lesions without leaving any significant scars.

  • Reoccurrence is possible, so regular skin checks are recommended

While seborrheic keratoses can be successfully removed, it is important to note that new growths may develop over time. Although these new growths are unrelated to previous ones, their appearance can cause concern for some individuals. To address this issue proactively, regular skin checks with a dermatologist are recommended. By monitoring any changes in the skin's condition or detecting new lesions early on, appropriate measures can be taken if necessary.

Key Takeaways on Seborrheic Keratosis

Seborrheic keratosis is a common skin condition that can cause raised, wart-like growths on the surface of the skin. While it is generally harmless and non-cancerous, these growths can be bothersome and affect one's self-confidence. Understanding the symptoms, causes, risks, diagnosis, available treatments, and prognosis for seborrheic keratosis is essential for managing this condition effectively.

Symptoms of seborrheic keratosis include the appearance of brown or black growths on the skin that may have a waxy or scaly texture. These growths are usually painless but can become itchy or irritated in some cases. It is important to note that seborrheic keratosis may resemble other types of skin conditions, so a proper diagnosis from a dermatologist is crucial.

The exact cause of seborrheic keratosis remains unknown. However, factors such as genetics, age, sun exposure, and hormonal changes are believed to contribute to its development. While anyone can develop seborrheic keratosis, it tends to be more common in older individuals.

Although seborrheic keratosis itself does not pose any serious health risks or complications, it can sometimes be mistaken for other skin conditions or even melanoma. Therefore, seeking dermatologic advice for an accurate diagnosis is important.

While there are no specific tests to diagnose seborrheic keratosis definitively, dermatologists typically identify it based on its characteristic appearance during a physical examination.

Treatment options for seborrheic keratosis focus mainly on removing the growths if they are causing discomfort or affecting one's appearance. Various methods such as cryotherapy (freezing), curettage (scraping), electrocautery (burning), and laser therapy may be used to remove the growths safely and effectively.

The outlook for seborrheic keratosis is generally positive, as it is a benign condition. However, new growths may appear over time, requiring further treatment. Regular self-examinations and routine check-ups with a dermatologist can help monitor any changes in the skin and ensure early detection of any potential issues.

In conclusion, seborrheic keratosis is a common skin condition that can be managed effectively with proper understanding and medical guidance. If you notice any unusual growths on your skin, it is important to consult a dermatologist for an accurate diagnosis and appropriate treatment options. By staying proactive and informed about your skin health, you can maintain confidence and peace of mind.


Are there any home remedies for treating seborrheic keratosis?

While there are various home remedies suggested online, it is crucial to consult a dermatologist before attempting any DIY treatments. Home remedies may not be effective or safe for removing seborrheic keratosis growths.

Can seborrheic keratosis turn into cancer?

Seborrheic keratosis itself is benign and does not typically turn into cancer. However, it's essential to differentiate it from other potentially dangerous skin conditions such as melanoma. If you have concerns about changes in your skin, seek medical advice promptly.

How long does the removal process take for seborrheic keratosis?

The duration of the removal process depends on various factors such as the number and size of the growths. In most cases, removal procedures are relatively quick and can be completed in a single visit to a dermatologist.

Are there any side effects or risks associated with seborrheic keratosis removal?

While the removal methods for seborrheic keratosis are generally safe, some potential side effects may include temporary redness, swelling, scarring, or changes in skin pigmentation. Discuss any concerns with your healthcare provider before undergoing treatment.

Can you prevent seborrheic keratosis?

Seborrheic keratosis is a common skin condition that typically affects older adults. While it is not possible to completely prevent seborrheic keratosis, there are certain measures that can be taken to minimize the risk or delay its onset. Here are some tips to help prevent seborrheic keratosis:

  1. Protect your skin from the sun: Sun exposure is a known risk factor for seborrheic keratosis. To reduce your risk, it is important to protect your skin from the sun's harmful ultraviolet (UV) rays. This can be done by wearing protective clothing, such as long sleeves and wide-brimmed hats, using sunscreen with a high SPF, and seeking shade during peak sun hours.

  2. Maintain a healthy lifestyle: Taking care of your overall health can also contribute to reducing the risk of seborrheic keratosis. This includes eating a balanced diet rich in fruits, vegetables, and whole grains, exercising regularly, getting enough sleep, and managing stress levels.

  3. Avoid skin irritants: Certain chemicals and substances can irritate the skin and potentially trigger the development of seborrheic keratosis. It is advisable to avoid using harsh soaps, detergents, and skincare products that contain irritating ingredients. If you notice any skin reactions or irritations, it is best to consult a dermatologist for proper evaluation and advice.

While these preventive measures may help reduce the risk of seborrheic keratosis, it is important to note that the condition is largely influenced by genetic factors and aging.

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