Seborrheic keratoses are common lesions which may appear to be precancerous but are actually benign spots. These spots are sometimes called skin barnacles because they can be rough, scaly, black, lumpy, smooth and more.
These lesions come in all sorts of shapes and sizes which is why thousands of people go to the dermatologist every year in fear that these spots are skin cancer.
Appearances of Seborrheic Keratoses
Sometimes, these keratosis spots look like a piece of dirt or blob that seems to be stuck on the skin. At first glance, it appears as if you could just use a fingernail to pick the spot off.
However, this keratosis grows up from the epidermal layer but goes no deeper than that.
Sometimes, a keratosis spot looks similar to a wart, only with this type of spot; it is not formed by any virus, unlike the wart. The surface of these spots may have that cauliflower appearance of a wart with the dimples and pits.
The opposite end of the spectrum also occurs. These spots are smooth much like pearls and can look like dark or light colored bumps. These bumps could have a bit of keratin in them.
Some seborrheic keratosis spots can be quite itchy and cause you to want to pick at them. Of course, picking on them can cause further irritation which could lead to bleeding if the skin gets broken.
Often, it is the appearance of a skin lesion bleeding that has people heading to the doctor to check for skin cancer.
What to Do about Seborrheic Keratosis
Most doctors will tell you to leave these keratosis spots alone but if they grow larger they could become unsightly and even interfere with wearing jewelry or even catching on clothing.
These keratosis spots are removed because they itch excessively. Their location could detract from a persons looks as well.
One self treatment option could be to shave off the spot since it is not adhered deeply through the skin layers. The object is to get the razors edge beneath the spot and shave it off while still leaving normal skin beneath it.
Of course, you will want to apply something like aluminum chloride to stop the bleeding.
A doctor can remove seborrheic keratosis by using liquid nitrogen which works to freeze the spot and destroy the cells causing the keratosis. This procedure leaves the foundation of the tissue intact. At this spot, a blister forms and water ruptures from it and the area will crust over.
Under the crusted area, skin is working to repair itself from the spot removal. When the crust falls off, the area may be a slightly different pigmentation or may even form a slight scarred area. This possible scarring is the reason why doctors prefer to do nothing.
Because these keratosis spots can be hard to tell apart from melanoma, it is important to always get them checked out by a doctor. Often, when keratosis first forms, they can look uncharacteristic of their usual appearance, so a medical opinion is best to rule out skin cancer.
Image: Klaus D. Peter, CC BY 3.0, via Wikimedia Commons