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Seborrheic keratosis

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

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

Causes

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 of seborrheic keratosis are skin growths that:

  • Are located on the face, chest, shoulders, back, or other areas, except the lips, palms, and soles
  • Are painless, but may become irritated and itchy
  • 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 like a piece of bee's wax that has been "pasted-on" the skin
  • Often appear in clusters

Exams 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).

Outlook (Prognosis)

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

Possible Complications

These complications may occur:

  • Irritation, bleeding, or discomfort of growths
  • Mistake in diagnosis (growths may look like skin cancer tumors)
  • Distress due to physical appearance

When to Contact a Medical Professional

Call your provider if you have symptoms of seborrheic keratosis.

Also call if you have new symptoms, such as:

  • A 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 provider will need to examine it for skin cancer.

References

Fitzpatrick JE, High WA, Kyle WL. Papillomatous and verrucous lesions. In: Fitzpatrick JE, High WA, Kyle WL, eds. Urgent Care Dermatology: Symptom-Based Diagnosis. Philadelphia, PA: Elsevier; 2018:chap 28.

Marks JG, Miller JJ. Epidermal growths. In: Marks JG, Miller JJ, eds. Lookingbill and Marks' Principles of Dermatology. 6th ed. Philadelphia, PA: Elsevier; 2019:chap 5.

Requena L, Requena C, Cockerell CJ. Benign epidermal tumors and proliferations. In: Bolognia JL, Schaffer JV, Cerroni L, eds. Dermatology. 4th ed. Philadelphia, PA: Elsevier; 2018:chap 109.

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  • Irritated Seborrheic Kerotosis - neck - illustration

    This irritated seborrheic keratosis may easily be mistaken for a nevus. It is irritated, and erythematous. Treatment with liquid nitrogen is recommended.

    Irritated Seborrheic Kerotosis - neck

    illustration

  • Irritated Seborrheic Kerotosis - neck - illustration

    This irritated seborrheic keratosis may easily be mistaken for a nevus. It is irritated, and erythematous. Treatment with liquid nitrogen is recommended.

    Irritated Seborrheic Kerotosis - neck

    illustration

 

Review Date: 10/14/2018

Reviewed By: Michael Lehrer, MD, Clinical Associate Professor, Department of Dermatology, University of Pennsylvania Medical Center, Philadelphia, PA. Review provided by VeriMed Healthcare Network. Also reviewed by David Zieve, MD, MHA, Medical Director, Brenda Conaway, Editorial Director, and the A.D.A.M. Editorial team.

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