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Seborrheic keratosis

Definition

Seborrheic keratosis is a condition that causes wart-like growths on the skin. The growths are noncancerous (benign).

Alternative Names

Benign skin tumors - keratosis; Keratosis - seborrheic; Senile keratosis

Causes, incidence, and risk factors

Seborrheic keratosis is a benign form of skin tumor. The cause is unknown.

The condition commonly appears after age 40. It tends to run in families.

Symptoms

Symptoms are skin growths that:

  • Are located on the face, chest, shoulders, back, or other areas
  • Are painless, but may become irritated and itch
  • Are most often tan, brown, or black
  • Have a slightly raised, flat surface
  • May have a rough texture (like a wart)
  • Often have a waxy surface
  •  Are round or oval in shape
  • May look "pasted-on"
  • Often appear in clusters

Signs and tests

Your health care provider will look at the growths to determine if you have the condition. You may need a skin biopsy to confirm the diagnosis.

Treatment

You usually do not need treatment unless growths get irritated or affect your appearance.

Growths may be removed with surgery or freezing (cryotherapy).

Expectations (prognosis)

Removing the growths is simple and usually does not cause scars. You may have patches of lighter skin where growths on the trunk have been removed.

Growths usually do not return after they are removed. You may develop more growths in the future if you are prone to the condition.

 

Complications

  • Irritation, bleeding, or discomfort of growths
  • Mistake in diagnosis (growths may look like skin cancer tumors)
  • Distress due to physical appearance
  • Many growths that come on suddenly (may be a sign of internal cancer)

 

Calling your health care provider

Call  your health care provider if you have symptoms of seborrheic keratosis.

Also call if you have new symptoms, such as:

  • Change in the appearance of the skin growth
  • New growths
  • A growth that looks like a seborrheic keratosis, but occurs by itself or has ragged borders and irregular color. (Your health care provider will need to examine it for skin cancer.

References

James WD, Berger TG, Elston DM, eds. Andrews' Diseases of the Skin: Clinical Dermatology. 11th ed. Philadelphia, Pa: Saunders Elsevier; 2011:chap 29.

Brodsky J. Management of benign skin lesions commonly affecting the face: actinic keratosis, seborrheic keratosis, and rosacea. Curr Opin Otolaryngol Head Neck Surg. 2009;17:315-320.


Review Date: 11/20/2012
Reviewed By: Kevin Berman, MD, PhD, Atlanta Center for Dermatologic Disease, Atlanta, GA. Review provided by VeriMed Healthcare Network. Also reviewed by A.D.A.M. Health Solutions, Ebix, Inc., Editorial Team: David Zieve, MD, MHA, David R. Eltz, Stephanie Slon, and Nissi Wang.
The information provided herein should not be used during any medical emergency or for the diagnosis or treatment of any medical condition. A licensed medical professional should be consulted for diagnosis and treatment of any and all medical conditions. Call 911 for all medical emergencies. Links to other sites are provided for information only -- they do not constitute endorsements of those other sites. © 1997- A.D.A.M., Inc. Any duplication or distribution of the information contained herein is strictly prohibited.
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