Seborrheic Keratosis - Causes, Treatment & Pictures

Spots and patches due to Seborrheic Keratosis

Skin lesions and marks are irritating. They can appear anywhere due to many reasons; such as stress, genetics, as part of natural skin aging or photo-aeing. . The patches can be scaly, rough, and sometimes itchy and makes your skin look bad, wherever it is. One such condition is Seborrheic Keratosis which is a form of skin growth. It is benign but can sometimes resemble melanoma which is a type of skin cancer, and hence, a serious condition.

Seborrheic Keratosis is not a serious condition. But it is a form of abnormal skin lesion that needs to be checked by the dermatologist to figure out if there is any other serious underlying condition that is causing the formation of SK. It is also important to rule out other forms of skin conditions that look quite similar to SK. It can usually occur on the scalp, chest, back, shoulders, abdomen, etc. The only parts of the body that are not affected by SK are the soles of the feet and your palms.

While it is not dangerous, Seborrheic Keratosis is a cosmetic hindrance which many would want to do away with. The patches are usually harmless otherwise and the only way to get rid of them is by surgical excision. 

Seborrheic Keratosis: What are the Causes?

The thing about Seborrheic Keratosis is that even the doctors are not that sure when it comes to the causes. Even then, the best researchers and dermatologists have shortlisted a few to catch the condition early on.

Mostly, the condition may occur if the condition runs in the families. Genetics plays an important role here. It is also a sign of aging skin and can appear as we grow older. As a result, such skin lesions appear. As we said, most of it is not harmful. But, if there are any changes in the lesion concerning appearance and texture, you should immediately seek medical advice.

Seborrheic Keratosis: What are the Risk Factors?

Once we know what causes Seborrheic Keratosis, it is also important to know what may trigger the condition so that you can steer clear, if possible. Take a look at the following points that form risk factors for Seborrheic Keratosis.

  • Most of the time, it is the genetics at play when it comes to Seborrheic Keratosis. If the condition runs in the family, chances are you will get it

  • Another factor that may trigger SK is age. If you are over the age of 50, the changes in the skin can turn out to be lesions that are a result of the condition

  • If you are exposed to the sun frequently, that may also result in Seborrheic Keratosis. Some studies support the same

Which risk factor is causing the condition in your case? That will be something your dermatologist will be able to point out. Do not speculate and self-diagnose. Consult a specialist.

Seborrheic Keratosis: What are the Symptoms?

Patches due to Seborrheic Keratosis

Seborrheic Keratosis can be identified by its specific wart-like appearance that grows with time. It looks waxy as well. Here are some of the symptoms to look out for.

  • The color ranges from dark brown and tan to black

  • It is oval or round in shape

  • It feels waxy to touch and grows like a wart

  • These lesions may turn itchy (an indication you have to connect with a dermatologist)

  • The size varies from 1-2.5 cms

  • It can either be flat or have a slightly raised and rough surface

Know that there are no specific causes that may trigger Seborrheic Keratosis. These are everyday lesions that you may not even notice. But when you find some unusual growth or there is an existing patch or growth that has suddenly started to itch, it can be a sign of a secondary infection or in rare cases a sign of malignant transformation. That is the time you need to get it checked via a dermatologist who can figure out whether it is benign or malignant.

Seborrheic Keratosis: When to See a Doctor?

In most cases, this is a fairly harmless condition. Even if it stays as a mole or a wart, it may not hamper your daily routine. However, if it is a face lesion or skin lesions in visible places, it may be a cosmetic hindrance that you may want to get rid of. That’s where a dermatologist can help you. 

But, for that, it is important to see a dermatologist and not ignore any abnormal markings on your body. When to do that? Let us tell you.

You should consult a dermatologist in the following conditions:

  • In case multiple growths are developing over time

  • If there are quick changes in the appearance of the wart

  • If the markings start itching and bleeding

  • If you notice any change in color and size

In such cases, the symptoms may be an indication of an underlying serious condition that you may want to get checked out.

If you experience any of the aforementioned, it is better to consult a dermatologist without further ado.

Seborrheic Keratosis: What is the Diagnosis?

In most cases, the dermatologist can determine and diagnose the type and severity of Seborrheic Keratosis by examining the skin. Usually, there is a biopsy to determine what the issue is.

Here are some of the questions that the dermatologist may ask you:

  • Are there multiple growths?

  • When did you first notice the skin lesions?

  • Does the condition bother or irritate?

  • Is there any genetic history of the condition?

  • Has there been any change in the growth?

Once you have satisfactorily answered the questions, the dermatologist will diagnose your condition.

It is important to disclose your entire medical and genetic history to the doctor. Non-disclosure of any detail due to fear or shame will only prove to be hazardous. Know that the doctor needs to know your entire history so that they can prescribe you treatment and course that suits your body well. Missing out on details may lead to interactions and side effects.

So, before consulting the dermatologist, make sure you have all your details ready with you. Once the doctor has everything, along with a sample (if required), an accurate diagnosis is possible. Consultation is also important so that the dermatologist can accurately diagnose Seborrheic Keratosis and rule out any other condition such as melanoma or any other form of skin cancer



Seborrheic Keratosis: What is the Treatment?


Woman applying lotion

Once the dermatologist has diagnosed the condition and found it to be Seborrheic Keratosis, then it’s time for the treatment. 

These treatments usually entail certain tips and precautions, including not scratching and picking at the affected area as it may infect it or worsen it. Most of the time, the dermatologist recommends surgical removal by using the following techniques.

Cryosurgery: This is also known as freezing the growth with liquid nitrogen. While this is very effective, it may lead to discoloration of the skin. If you are going for cosmetic concerns by getting the lesions removed, you may not be happy with getting scars in the process. Also, this is not effective for thicker growths that are raised in texture.

Electrocautery: This one is where the dermatologist uses a controlled electric current to remove the wart. Here the area will firstly be numbed and then the SK wart will be excised by using the technique of electrocautery. It can be combined with the process of scraping when the growth is thick. Also, make sure that you choose a good dermatologist who does it with absolute care. Given it involves burning with electricity, it may leave scars if not done with caution. It also takes longer to remove warts with electrocautery than with any other method.

Ablation: This is where the wart or lesions are vaporized by using various laser techniques. There are many laser treatments available. You can pick the right one for you after consulting with your dermatologist, depending on the growth and size of the wart and your medical history.

Hydrogen Peroxide Solution: This is an effective treatment if you have a raised growth. The dermatologist usually recommends a solution of approximately 40% Hydrogen Peroxide. This is a topical application that helps in removing Seborrheic Keratosis and resultant lesions. However, be wary of the irritation that it causes. Also, Hydrogen Peroxide Solution may harm the eyes, so it needs to be used very carefully.

Curettage: This is one of the most basic yet effective ways of getting rid of Seborrheic Keratosis. Here the dermatologist gets rid of the markings by first numbing the affected area and then using a scalpel to surgically remove it. It can also be combined with other techniques such as electrocautery.

Do not try any home remedies for Seborrheic Keratosis. There is information on the internet that suggests the usage of lemon, tea tree oil, etc. While on the surface it may look like these will dry the lesions and cause them to fall off, that is not the case. It may further aggravate the condition and even cause infections if the warts are indications of something other than Seborrheic Keratosis. Hence, we always recommend consulting a dermatologist. If the dermatologist recommends certain tricks to take care of your skin, by all means, go ahead. But do not follow any trick on the internet and self-medicate.

Seborrheic Keratosis, as mentioned, is not harmful. Nevertheless, that is on the dermatologist to decide as the symptoms may be similar to other conditions. Further, the markings are not aesthetically pleasing so you may want to get them surgically removed. Contact a trusted specialist and get that done for healthier and better skin.

Seborrheic Keratosis: What is the Prevention?

You can avoid Seborrheic Keratosis and other such conditions by being aware of what suits your skin and hair and what does not. You know the symptoms and the abnormalities it brings along. If there is any change in the markings, know it and immediately consult a dermatologist. Further, do not try any medication or home remedy without first seeking medical help.

One of the main risk factors for SK is genetics and you can’t change it. The only thing that you can do is regularly apply sunscreen before stepping out so that you can at least prevent that form of skin lesions by protecting yourself against the sun.

You can also try wearing more comfortable and loose fabrics that avoid friction between the skin (affected area) and the cloth. While this does not affect the condition itself, it may make your life easier by reducing your discomfort.

Seborrheic Keratosis: The Bottomline

This is a skin condition that may happen to anyone. Further, when it is a condition that has a  genetic association, what more can you do? The good thing is, when diagnosed correctly, it is harmless and poses no threat to your skin, body, or daily lifestyle. But, it is important to get it diagnosed, more to rule out any other serious condition which may have a similar clinical picture. Also, it is good to get it removed for aesthetic purposes.

As soon as you notice a change in an existing growth or a new growth, consult a dermatologist, instantly. How do you do that? The smart way. Take the telehealth option. SkyMD is the app that you should download now and register yourself for free. With SkyMD on your phone, you can connect with a dermatologist immediately, without having to wait long hours for an appointment. You can get instant diagnosis and treatment over video chat. In today’s time of social distancing, nothing can be better.

Download the SkyMD app now. Register for free and know your skin better, treat it better, without having to worry about walk-ins and waiting.


Ready to be seen?

Accreditations and Certifications