What are Seborrhoeic Keratoses?
Seborrhoeic Keratoses are raised warty non-cancerous growths of the surface layers of the skin, called the epidermis. They vary in colour from light brown to dark brown and often have a roughened warty surface (hence they are also known as seborrheic warts). Sometimes they look as though they have been “stuck on” the top of the skin. The most common sites to develop Seborrhoeic Keratoses are the face, scalp, chest and back. Almost one in five people aged over 60 years will develop seborrheic keratoses and numbers can range from a single lesion to more than 100.
Why do they develop?
We do not know why Seborrhoeic Keratosis develop but there does appear to be a link with long-term sun exposure. Sometimes they appear to be a family trait. It is unusual to see new Seborrhoeic Keratoses before the age of 40 years. It is sometimes worth asking your parents or siblings to see if anyone else has any in the family.
What harm do they cause?
Seborrhoeic Keratosis never develop into skin cancers, are completely harmless and not contagious. They may itch and irritate but this will normally settle down with time. They do sometimes cause embarrassment particularly if they occur at cosmetically sensitive sites such as the face or neck. Larger ones may catch on clothing.
Do they need to be treated?
No, they do not require any treatments unless they cause symptoms. Any itching or irritation may be relieved by simple moisturisers such as E45 cream or Vaseline Intensive Care Lotion purchased from the chemist.
Under what circumstances will my NHS doctor consider treatment?
In exceptional circumstances, your GP may suggest treatment for a troublesome skin lesion that bleeds, catches or causes intense irritation. Cosmetic treatment to remove multiple lesions is not provided by the NHS.
What self-funded treatments are effective?
Treatments that destroy the surface layers of the skin are most effective. This includes freezing (cryotherapy), curettage and cautery (scraping and burning), laser therapy. Creams will not remove Seborrhoeic Keratoses but may help to soften them. Thin lesions respond best to cryotherapy but thick warty lesions are best treated by scraping them off under local anaesthesia using a sharp instrument called a curette. The base is then treated with cautery to stop the bleeding. It usually takes 2-6 weeks for treated skin areas to completely settle down after such treatments. Occasionally, treatment may produce a small white scar.
If you are bothered by seborrheic keratoses book an appointment with one of our specialists now.