What Are Keloids?
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. They’re most commonly found on the chest,
shoulders, earlobes, and cheeks. However, keloids can affect any part of the
Although keloids aren’t harmful to your health, they may create
What Symptoms Are Associated with Keloids?
Keloids occur from the overgrowth of scar tissue. Symptoms occur
at a site of previous skin injury.
The symptoms of keloids can include:
- a localized area that is flesh-colored, pink, or
red in color
- a lumpy or ridged area of skin that’s usually
- an area that continues to grow larger with scar
tissue over time
- an itchy patch of skin
Keloid scars tend to be larger than the original wound
itself. They may take weeks or months to develop fully.
While keloid scars may be itchy, they’re usually not harmful
to your health. You may experience discomfort, tenderness, or possible
irritation from your clothing or other forms of friction. In rare instances, you
may experience keloid scarring on a significant amount of your 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’re in the sun to prevent discoloration.
What Causes the Condition?
Most skin injury types can contribute to keloid scarring. These
- acne scars
- chickenpox scars
- ear piercing
- surgical incision sites
- vaccination sites
According to the American Osteopathic
College of Dermatology (AOCD), an estimated 10 percent of people experience
keloid scarring. Men and women are equally likely to have keloid scars. Those
with darkly pigmented skin, such as African-Americans, are more prone to
Other risk factors associated with keloid formation include:
- being of Asian heritage
- being of Latino heritage
- being pregnant
- being younger than 30
Keloids tend to have a genetic component, which means you’re
more likely to have keloids if one or both of your parents has them. According
to a study
conducted at Henry Ford Hospital in Detroit, Michigan, a gene known as the
AHNAK gene may play a role in determining who develops keloids and who doesn’t.
The researchers found that people who have the AHNAK gene may be more likely to
develop keloid scars than those who don’t.
If people have known risk factors for developing keloids,
they may want to avoid getting body piercings, unnecessary surgeries, or
When to Seek Medical Attention
Keloids typically don’t 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.
Keloids are benign, but uncontrolled growth may be a sign of
skin cancer. After diagnosing keloid scarring by visual exam, 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
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. After removing
the keloid, the scar tissue may grow back again, and sometimes it grows back
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
Initially, your doctor will probably recommend less invasive
treatments, such as applying silicone pads, pressure dressings, or injections. These
treatments require frequent and careful application to prove effective. However,
keloids tend to shrink and become flatter over time even without treatment.
In the instance of very large keloids, surgical removal may
be indicated. According to the Dermatology Online Journal,
the rate of keloid scarring coming back can be high after surgery. Your doctor
may recommend steroid injections after surgery to lower the risk of the keloid
Although they rarely cause adverse side effects, keloids can
be an annoying and sometimes physically embarrassing occurrence. Treatments for
keloid scarring can be difficult and not always effective. For this reason,
it’s important to try to prevent skin injuries that could lead to keloid