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Understanding Seborrheic Keratosis

Seborrheic keratoses are wart-like growths on the skin. These growths are not cancer. Most people get these growths when they are middle age or older.

 How to say it

seh-bor-EE-ik ker-ah-TOH-sis

What causes seborrheic keratoses?

Doctors don't know what causes seborrheic keratoses. They may run in families. They become more common as people get older.

What are the symptoms of seborrheic keratoses?

Here is what seborrheic keratoses often look like:

  • They tend to be round or oval in shape. They can be very small or about as big across as a quarter.

  • They can appear singly or in clusters.

  • They tend to be tan, brown, or black in color.

  • The edges may be scalloped or uneven-looking.

  • They can have a waxy or scaly look.

  • They can be a bit raised, appearing to be “stuck on” the skin.

  • They may become red and irritated if scratched or rubbed by clothing

Sebhorrheic keratoses are not painful, but they may be itchy. They can become irritated if they are continually rubbed by skin or clothing. Seborrheic keratoses most often appear on the face, arms, chest, back, or belly.

How are seborrheic keratoses treated?

Seborrheic keratoses don’t need to be treated unless they bother you. You may choose to have them removed because you find them unattractive. You may also want them removed because they get irritated and uncomfortable. Sometimes, seborrheic keratoses can look like more dangerous skin lesions. Your healthcare provider may remove them (biopsy) to tell the difference. A healthcare provider can remove them in an office visit. Ways that seborrheic keratoses can be removed include:

  • Freezing them off with liquid nitrogen

  • Cutting them off with a scalpel

  • Using electric current to destroy the growth

What are possible complications of seborrheic keratoses?

Seborrheic keratoses are not cancer, but they can look like some types of skin cancer. So it’s a good idea to ask your healthcare provider to check any new skin growths. Ask your healthcare provider about any skin problem that concerns you.

When should I call my healthcare provider?

Call your healthcare provider right away if any of these occur:

  • You develop a lot of seborrheic keratoses very quickly

  • You have a sore that doesn't heal within a few weeks, or heals and then comes back

  • You have a mole or skin growth that is changing in size, shape, or color

  • You have a mole or skin growth that looks different on one side from the other

  • You have a mole or skin growth that is not the same color throughout

Online Medical Reviewer: Michael Lehrer MD
Online Medical Reviewer: Raymond Kent Turley BSN MSN RN
Online Medical Reviewer: Rita Sather RN
Date Last Reviewed: 6/1/2019
© 2000-2022 The StayWell Company, LLC. All rights reserved. This information is not intended as a substitute for professional medical care. Always follow your healthcare professional's instructions.
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