A keloid is a scar that rises above your skin and spreads across a particular area. Compared to regular surgery scars, a keloid can grow larger than the actual wound that caused the scar in the first place. In rare cases, a ‘spontaneous’ keloid can develop even if an injury does not occur. Besides a surgical incision, a piercing can also cause keloids. Burns, acne, or chickenpox might lead to keloids. Keloids are known to run in the family, especially for people with darker complexions. Luckily, they are noncancerous. Keep reading to learn more about the symptoms and treatments for keloids.
Keloids can develop anywhere on the body. However, they are more likely to form on the ears, neck, shoulders, chest, and back. Depending on the location, a raised scar can grow from less than an inch to larger than a football. Larger keloids tend to appear on the back or shoulders. A keloid formed on an earlobe is round or oval. A raised scar on your chest, legs, or arms generally has a long, linear pattern.
Keloids are hard and firm to the touch. They rarely move as they are fixed in place, but a keloid on the neck, ear, or abdomen might hang in a certain manner if it is connected by a stalk. Nevertheless, the surrounding skin will feel different from the raised skin.
A keloid can vary in color from pink to red to purple. In some cases, they are very dark depending on your pigmentation. It is more common for keloids to appear on people of color. Sun exposure can also affect the hue. After a keloid gets darker, it might stay that shade even after your tan fades.
A keloid will grow slowly over time. The raised scar can spread for several weeks or months. In some cases, they grow for years. However, it takes a long time for a keloid to grow even a little bit. You might not even notice a keloid for up to three months after the scar first appeared. For some people, it can take nearly a year for a keloid to form. After you finally spot a raised scar, the growth will continue to be extremely sluggish. It is possible, though, for keloids to triple in size within a matter of months.
A growing keloid can cause pain, itchiness, or both. You may experience tenderness if a keloid is on your chest. After the raised scar has reached its maximum size, this symptom should subside. Rubbing clothes or scratching the area can lead to irritation as well. Sun exposure will make the keloid darker than the rest of your skin and may stay dark.
There is no cure for keloids, but a variety of treatment options are available to improve the look and feel of a raised scar. Even after receiving treatment, a keloid can grow back over time. Depending on the size and symptoms, your doctor may recommend multiple treatments. Cryotherapy is a common treatment for keloids. It involves freezing the specific area, which can lighten the skin, decrease the size, and reduce the hardness. This treatment works best for small keloids. Multiple cryotherapy sessions accompanied with injections can make the process more effective.
A shot of corticosteroid can help shrink a raised scar. As mentioned before, injections may be used with cryotherapy to target keloids. Your medical provider may suggest a series of shots every month for several months at a time. However, even if the keloid does improve, it can grow back in a handful of years.
Keloid surgery involves removing the raised scar. Cutting it off is still not a permanent solution because nearly all keloids return after surgical removal. Taking injections of corticosteroids or undergoing cryotherapy can reduce the chance of it growing back. Laser treatment can help fade the color and reduce the height.
Another way to prevent the growth of a raised scar after surgery is by pressure wrapping it. That way, the reduction of blood flow can help prevent a keloid from forming. A silicone gel bandage is ideal; they are available at drugstores. Apply the bandage on the keloid for 12 to 24 hours a day for two to six months. Your doctor will help guide you through this process. Other types of pressure dressings are available. Pressure earrings are also recommended if you develop keloids on your earlobes. While the other pressure garments can be uncomfortable, pressure earrings are the easiest to wear.
Your dermatologist may recommend radiation. When used alone, it can reduce the size of a keloid. You might undergo the therapy both before and after surgery. In that case, it is to prevent the scar from returning. However, this treatment for keloids is the last option because radiation can increase your chance of cancer.
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