Seborrheic Keratosis is a condition of the skin where benign growths appear on the hands, legs, face, and any other body part. Seborrheic Keratosis is a condition that affects the elderly more often than the young. It is generally harmless and doesn’t do anything to the quality of health. They may be embarrassing to some individuals. These show up on the skin in a number of different colors. Some are green but some may be tan or even almost black. They vary in size as well, from small barely noticeable lesions, to larger and more prominent growths. These lesions are not warts nor are they related to melanoma or other skin cancers. They are often referred to as barnacles.
Dermatologists may call these warts, but that is technically incorrect usage and terminology to describe these. A doctor who refers to them as warts may frighten the individual that has them, making them believe they have a more serious condition. It is important for individuals who have unusual “warts” to ask doctors what else they can be for a better diagnosis and treatment options.
Classifications of Seborrheic Keratosis
There are a few groups of this condition that can be broken down into different classifications for easy diagnosis and treatment. Proper diagnosis is a very powerful tool in preventing the condition from worsening or becoming more serious.
The Common Seborrheic Keratosis condition is the one that is most common. The lesions are dull and are not usually visible unless someone is looking closely at them. They may be unsightly to some people who think they are very visible even though they are not. These can range in size and can even be large enough to look like a simple discoloring due to over exposure to the sun on a particular part of the body.
Reticulated Seborrheic Keratosis is a classification that is comparable to the common type, but with cysts. These cysts may be painful or unsightly. Cysts can also grow due to the fluid that they can collect over time. They are often “loose” and can be “moved” around slightly wherever they grow.
Stucco Keratosis is a type that has the same type of lesions as all of the other sub-categories, with the exception that these lesions resemble spindles and stucco when examined on a small cellular scale. This styling of the cells is not visible to the naked eye, but it is how doctors diagnose an individual with this particular variety. Large areas of skin can be affected with the stucco keratosis, but you would not be able to see it with the naked eye.
Clonal Sebhorrheic Keratosis has loose and round cells when examined by a dermatologist. These loosely packed cells are often lackluster and cause the skin to have an unusual coloration. This is the most common problem with clonal sebhorrheic keratosis.
The remainders of the sub-categories are all similar to the above but contain different cell structures beneath the surface of the skin. These can become particularly bothersome, especially if a patient has an aggressive type. The aggressive types are very difficult to deal with as they can be healed and come back in waves that can be stronger than before, even with treatment.
Symptoms of Seborrheic Keratosis
The main symptoms involve noticing lesions on the skin that resemble a waxy and raised bump. If they look like they were randomly placed or simply “stuck on” the skin surface, then it is most likely Seborrheic Keratosis. Dermatologists may misdiagnose patients with dark skin has having a type of melanoma instead of a Keratosis skin disorder. They can be itchy but it isn’t a common characteristic. These growths can also develop on the body in areas where sun usually reaches – the shoulders, chest, feet, and arms and face. Although these locations are where it occurs most often, it is unknown whether or not sun exposure plays a large role in the progression of the condition.
What Causes Keratosis and What Are the Risk Factors?
Dermatologists do not understand why these occur. Some speculate that genetics may be the reason, and others believe that they simply happen due to sun exposure. Older men that were in the sun most of their lives are more likely to get these. The elderly are most likely to have these on their body. Pregnant women may also develop these, but they are not harmful to the pregnancy or unborn child. The instance of having these lesions on the skin could become embarrassing and could affect how the person conducts themselves when out in public.
Risk factors could include prolonged exposure to the sun or even exposure to tanning booths. Several suggestions lead to believing that genetic factors could cause this problem, but not many studies have gone into this to ensure that it is true. Those who are affected will usually not have a family history and those who do have more than one instance in the immediate family could simply be due to environmental factors. It is unknown if it occurs more often in third world countries but we do know that it can happen to anyone regardless of race or background.
Diagnosis and Treatment of Seborrheic Keratosis
A dermatologist will be able to diagnose this condition with a simple skin biopsy. The examination of the skin cells will determine precisely what type of Keratosis the individual has and how it should be treated. In the majority of situations the patient doesn’t need any treatment. They may opt to have the lesions removed one by one. In rare instances an individual can have hundreds of these lesions which may call for removal. If the lesions harm the everyday life of the individual removal is simple and recommended. Darker colored people may experience scarring depending on how large the lesions are. Other individuals will not experience a lot of scar tissue.
The most common treatment method is by using liquid nitrogen to freeze them off. There is always the chance that they will grow back at a later date, but this isn’t as likely as it would be if they were warts. This can also cause scarring when the freezing is not done correctly or if the lesion is very large.
It May Be Serious if You Experience the Following:
While Keratosis is not related to melanoma or any dangerous skin disease, it can be easily passed up by individuals and doctors alike. If your lesions have appeared suddenly and are rapidly growing, it may be reason for concern. Fast growth can indicate a type of skin cancer which may spread to other parts of the body and can cause death. Sometimes people with keratosis may have skin cancers and not even know.
If the bumps or barnacles bleed, then something may be seriously wrong with them. Your lesions should never bleed, become inflamed, or severely itch. In general they shouldn’t cause any discomfort at all. These can get infected if they are left untreated.
Remember that these are not any type of HPV, STD, or wart. They are not caused by a virus and they should not be due to an infection or cancer. These will not cause health problems if they are indeed benign bumps.