Seborrheic keratoses: Diagnosis, treatment, and outcome

Seborrheic keratoses: Diagnosis, treatment, and outcome

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How do dermatologists diagnose seborrheic keratoses?

In most cases, a dermatologist can tell if your skin growth is a seborrheic keratosis by looking at it. Sometimes a seborrheic keratosis can look like a skin cancer. If it does, the dermatologist will remove the growth so that it can be looked at under a microscope. This is the only way to tell for sure whether a growth is skin cancer.

How do dermatologists treat seborrheic keratoses?

Because seborrheic keratoses are harmless, they most often do not need treatment. A dermatologist may remove a seborrheic keratosis when it is:

  • Hard to distinguish from skin cancer.
  • Large or gets easily irritated when clothes or jewelry rub against it.
  • Unsightly to a patient.

If your dermatologist does a biopsy, the doctor will likely shave off the growth with a scalpel or scrape it off.

Treatments for seborrheic keratoses include:

  • Cryosurgery: The dermatologist applies liquid nitrogen, a very cold liquid, to the growth with a cotton swab or spray gun. This freezes the growth. The seborrheic keratosis tends to fall off within days. Sometimes a blister forms under the seborrheic keratosis and dries into a scab-like crust. The crust will fall off.
  • Electrosurgery and curettage: Electrosurgery (electrocautery) involves numbing the growth with an anesthetic and using an electric current to cauterize (burn) the growth. A scoop-shaped surgical instrument, a curette, is used to scrape off the treated growth. This is the curettage. The patient does not need stitches. There may be a small amount of bleeding. Sometimes the patient needs only electrosurgery or just curettage.

Outcome

After removal of a seborrheic keratosis, the skin may be lighter than the surrounding skin. This usually fades with time. Sometimes it is permanent. Most removed seborrheic keratoses do not return. But a new one may occur elsewhere.

Learn more about seborrheic keratoses:

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