When skin is injured, fibrous tissue (called scar tissue) forms over the wound to repair and protect the injury. In some cases, scar tissue grows excessively, forming smooth, hard growths called keloids. Keloids can be much larger than the original wound, and are most commonly found on the upper chest and shoulders. However, keloids can affect any part of the body. (NZDSI)
Although keloids are not harmful to your health, they may present cosmetic concerns.
What Symptoms Are Associated with Keloids?
Keloids occur from the overgrowth of scar tissue; symptoms will occur at a site of previous skin injury.
- area that is flesh-colored, pink or red in color
- a lumpy or ridged area of skin
- an area that continues to grow larger with scar tissue over time
- itchy patch of skin
Keloid scars tend to be larger than the original wound itself. They may take weeks or months to fully develop.
While keloid scars may be itchy, they are typically not harmful to your health. You may experience some discomfort or tenderness, or possible irritation from clothing or other forms of friction. In rare instances, a person may experience keloid scarring on a significant amount of their body. When this occurs, the hardened, tight scar tissue may restrict your movements.
Keloids are often more of a cosmetic concern than a health one. You may feel self-conscious if the keloid is very large or in a highly visible location, such as an earlobe or on the face. Sun exposure or tanning may discolor the scar tissue, making it slightly darker than your surrounding skin. This can make the keloid stand out even more than it already does. Keep the scar covered when you are in the sun to prevent discoloration.
What Causes the Condition?
Most skin injury types can contribute to keloid scarring. This includes:
- acne scars
- chickenpox scars
- ear piercing
- surgical cuts
- vaccination sites
According to the National Center for Biotechnology Information, keloid scarring is common in people between the ages of 10 and 20, and also among African Americans, Asians, and Hispanics. Keloids tend to have a genetic component, which means you are more likely to have keloids if one or both of your parents has them. (NCBI)
When to Seek Medical Attention
Keloids typically do not require medical attention, but you may want to contact your doctor if growth continues, you develop additional symptoms, or you want to have the keloids surgically removed.
While keloids are benign, uncontrolled growth may be a sign of skin cancer. After diagnosing keloid scarring with a visual examination, your doctor may want to perform a biopsy to rule out other conditions. This involves taking a small sample of tissue from the scarred area and analyzing it for cancerous cells.
How Is the Condition Treated?
The decision to treat a keloid can be a tricky one—keloid scarring is the result of the body’s attempt to repair itself. Removing the keloid may mean that scar tissue only grows back again, sometimes larger than before.
Examples of keloid treatments include:
- corticosteroid injections to reduce inflammation
- moisturizing oils to keep the tissue soft
- using pressure or silicone gel pads after injury
- freezing the tissue to kill skin cells
- laser treatments to reduce scar tissue
- radiation to shrink keloids
- surgery to remove the keloid
These treatments can reduce or eliminate keloid scarring. However, keloids tend to shrink and become flatter over time even without treatment.