In the world of medicine, lesions are a common and variegated phenomenon. They can be benign, malignant or benign themselves and indicative of something malignant making them important to be able to identify, evaluate and treat. Seborrheic keratosis is a particular type of skin lesion that is benign and actually requires no treatment. There are a number of things to keep in mind about seborrheic keratosis, including what it can indicate, how to go about removing them should one choose to, causes and the details of diagnosis.
What is it?
The disease is an off-colored skin lesion that tends to take on any color from tan to black it is slightly elevated and can range in size from a few centimeters to more than an inch in diameter. It looks something like liver spots do and like liver spots is seen more frequently on the elderly than the youth.
While it is a skin lesion it’s not malignant in fact if seborrheic keratosis is properly diagnosed you don’t have to do anything. It won’t hurt you and treatment is both more troublesome and more expensive than it’s worth if done for the preservation of health.
As for the characteristics of seborrheic keratosis they’re usually waxy or scaly, somewhat elevated and irregularly shaped. They’re not usually irritable but sometimes can be a little bit painful or at the least agitated by clothing, jewelry or other contact. In that situation people might opt for removal however treatment is usually unnecessary and uncalled for.
Risk Factors for Seborrheic Keratosis
Because the causes of seborrheic keratosis aren’t well established no one knows precisely what risk factors are relevant or what should be done to prevent them. The most consistent acknowledge risk factors however are age and sunlight exposure. The first of these is the most relevant Seborrheic keratosis is more common in the elderly and consistently occurs in that demographic with higher frequency than it does in sun-exposed individuals of other age groups.
One of the most severe problems associated with seborrheic keratosis is in relation to its sudden and explosive appearance. This is called the Leser-Trélat sign which points to the lesions being associated with some severe gastrointestinal disease, such as colon cancer. If they pop on suddenly and in huge quantity it’s worth seeing a specialist just in case.
Another potentially serious complication sometimes occurs in people with a number of seborrheic keratoses. Sometimes black ones can be difficult to distinguish from nodular melanomas so the appearance of such a melanoma might be missed. This is why it’s important to go in to the dermatologist upon the appearance of any dark, irregularly colored and oddly shaped skin growth or lesion.
Otherwise seborrheic keratosis rarely indicates anything more serious than age and exposure to the sun. It’s rarely worth the effort of removal unless it’s itchy or painful.
Again, removal is very rarely necessary, but if the growths are itchy, painful or irritated by clothing, patients might opt to get rid of them. Doing so isn’t so difficult because seborrheic keratosis affects only the upper layers of the skin. That means they can be taken care of with electrocautery, cryosurgery, electrodessication and curettage (ED+C), or more extensive cryotherapy. Usually this doesn’t result in severe scarring unless the procedure was performed incorrectly.
Each of these methods is frequently practiced and highly effective, we’ll go over each on briefly. Elecrocautery is the use of an electrically heated tool to induce controlled burns on a particular area in this case on the seborrheic keratosis. Controlled destruction results in the body being forced to heal normally resulting in the elimination of the keratosis. Cryosurgery and cryotherapy are related tactics that use extreme cold instead of heat to destroy and remove the affected skin tissue with the same end result.
Electrodessication and curettage is a procedure in which a surgeon scrapes off affected skin the exposed area treated with electrodessication (which denatures the proteins of the exposed area) and then the scraping repeated. Usually this is used to treat skin cancers in which case the scraping can get quite deep; treatment of seborrheic keratosis usually doesn’t require significant ED+C however.