Keloids are like scars in many ways. They are composed of scar tissue and form as the result of surgery or an injury to the skin. However, keloids don’t fade over time like most other scars. In fact, they tend to worsen over time. Read this article to learn more about keloid scars and how you can get rid of them.
Because keloids are different from normal scarring, they have many signs and symptoms that help to distinguish them. Keloids can be identified by the following properties:
- Location: Like other scars, keloids appear at the site of injury or the site of an incision after a surgery.
- Time frame: Unlike other scars, keloids take longer to begin forming. You may not see a keloid for some time after the surgery or injury occurred.
- Size: Keloids start out as the size of the injury or incision, but they grow over time to spread into the surrounding areas. This distinguishes keloids from hypertrophic scars, which are similar in shape and size to keloids but do not grow beyond the boundaries of the original wound.
- Shape: Keloids are often lumpy and ridged. They may be thicker so that they are raised above the surface of the skin. They generally have a firm and rubbery texture.
- Color: Most keloids are red or pink in color. In some cases, keloids are flesh-colored or even purplish.
- Feeling: Because keloids are usually in the process of growing, they often become quite itchy. Some keloids are also tender or painful to the touch.
Causes and Risk Factors
Initially, most keloids are caused by an injury where the skin has been punctured or by surgery requiring an incision in the skin. However, they may also form in other areas where the skin has been severely irritated due to conditions like acne, burns, piercings, chickenpox or vaccination sites. Unfortunately, these are the same conditions which can cause normal scarring, and doctors do not know why some injury sites end up with keloids instead of normal scarring. Some research suggests that keloids may run in families and that this type of scarring may be triggered by chemical changes in the body relating to rapid cell growth and proliferation.
In addition to having others in one’s family with keloids, there are a few other factors which may increase an individual’s risk for getting keloids. For instance, keloids are the most common in young people from ages 10 to 20. Additionally, people of African American, Hispanic and Asian descent are more likely to get these types of scars. Getting a piercing or undergoing surgery may also increase your risk of getting keloids, especially if you fall into one of the higher risk groups mentioned above.
Prevention and Treatment
Unfortunately, there are no sure ways to prevent keloids from occurring outside of avoiding injury, surgery or other conditions which may lead to keloid scarring. If you have had a keloid before, you know that your chances of getting another one are higher so avoiding elective surgery or piercings are two ways to actively prevent keloids from forming. In some cases, you may be able to use imiquimod cream to prevent keloids from forming after surgery. You can also prevent existing keloids from becoming more apparent by limiting their exposure to the sun, especially in the first year after the keloid appears.
When it comes to treating a keloid scar, there are several options for reducing their size or removing them entirely. Corticosteroid injections, laser treatments and radiation may all help to decrease the size and appearance of keloid scars. For complete removal, consider cryotherapy, which will freeze the keloid off of the skin, or surgical removal. However, it’s important to consider that even complete removal of the scar may not be permanent as some keloids reappear after removal. Consult a dermatologist for more information on the best ways to approach treatment for your keloid scarring. Never attempt to remove a keloid scar yourself; picking, popping or puncturing a keloid scar will no effectively remove it and could lead to infection at the scar site.
Keloids are generally harmless and do not pose any health risk. They are not contagious and will not spread to other parts of your body or to other whom you come into contact with. However, if a keloid becomes very large it could pose mobility challenges or become more susceptible to popping or puncturing, which could cause infection. If you feel that your keloid scars are interfering with your life, whether due to interference with mobility or simply because you do not like their appearance, see a doctor. You may need a special dermatologist referral depending on the severity of your scarring. After a physical examination, the doctor or dermatologist can explain possible options for reducing the size of the scar or removing the keloid entirely.