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Seborrhoeic keratosis: Treatment, symptoms, advice and help

About seborrhoeic keratosis

Seborrhoeic keratosis is a benign (non-cancerous) growth, commonly seen in older individuals.

Seborrhoeic keratosis: Incidence, age and sex

The frequency of seborrhoeic keratosis increases with increasing age. It occurs with the same frequency in both the genders.

Signs and symptoms of seborrhoeic keratosis: Diagnosis

Seborrhoeic keratosis usually appears as multiple brown or black or pale growths anywhere on the body, but predominantly on the face, chest, shoulders, or back. It may be slightly elevated with a waxy and scaly appearance. It is round or oval in shape and can vary in size from a centimetre to an inch. There may be itching associated with it. Occasionally, it may appear as just a single growth, but most of the times it is multiple. Seborrhoeic keratosis does not transform into cancer, but it may look like skin cancer. It is usually diagnosed on simple skin examination; however skin biopsy may be required sometimes to rule out other disorders in doubtful cases.

It is normally painless and requires no treatment, but one can remove them for cosmetic reasons.

Causes and prevention of seborrhoeic keratosis

The exact cause of seborrhoeic keratosis is not known, but they usually run in families suggesting a genetic or hereditary factor. Sunlight seems to play a role in the development of some seborrhoeic keratosis.

The cause is unknown, so one can do nothing to prevent it, but some research does suggest that exposure to sunlight puts one at a risk of developing seborrhoeic keratosis. One can therefore take steps to minimise exposure to harmful UV radiation of sunlight e.g., by using a sunscreen lotion when outdoor or wearing clothing that blocks sunrays.

Seborrhoeic keratosis: Complications

Apart from disfigurement and psychological distress associated with multiple skin lesions, there are usually no complications. However, if one pricks on the growth or tries to remove them on one’s own, there may be development of secondary infection. There is a rare association of cancer of stomach with rapid occurrence of multiple lesions once removed by surgery or cryotherapy, growths usually do not recur, but people who are prone to this condition may develop similar growths in the future.

Seborrhoeic keratosis: Treatment

Treatment is usually not required unless the growths become irritated or are on face or on any exposed part of the body and look ugly. They may be removed with surgery or freezing (cryotherapy) only after assessing the overall health of the individual. Removing the growths is a simple procedure and usually does not leave any marks behind.