Seborrheic Keratoses

Exactly what is seborrheic keratoses?  Dr. Robert Ashley expands on what this is and how to care for this condition.

Seborrheic keratoses are small, brown, rough and very itchy spots developing on the back and other areas.  Many are explained away by age and we just have to live with it.  These are also known as seborrheic verruca, basal cell papilloma or a senile wart.  They are non-cancerous skin tumors that originate from cells in the outer layer of the skin.  Most are brown but can also be white, black, yellow or grayish and appear after the age of 50.  Some can actually begin in a person’s 30’s.  They are round or oval, feel flat or slightly elevated, like the scab from a healing wound, and range in size from very small to more than 2.5 centimeters (1 in) across.

Seborrheic keratoses can show up literally anywhere on our body except the palms and soles.  These lesions are more likely to occur in the sun-exposed areas of our body and vary from person to person from just a few to hundreds.  They can often come in association with other skin conditions, including basal cell carcinoma.  Usually your doctor will not worry about these because the likelihood of becoming cancerous is extremely small.  They are not pretty but neither are they harmful.  Trying to destroy them is the basic current treatment.

Your doctor will most likely first use liquid nitrogen that will make the lesions blister and fall off.  This is a good option, especially if it is very itchy or painful, but again, the lesions can return.

Shaving off the lesions is another option but can lead to bleeding and scarring.  Using the retinoid cream tazarotene can diminish seborrheic keratoses if you choose a topical treatment.

It seems it’s just one of those things we learn to deal with as we age, but at least nothing that needs to give us concern.

Dr Fredda Branyon