Tricia Winters, PA-C

With all the information we have become familiar with on how to keep our skin healthy, some of us are vigilant about watching out for any changes that occur to our skin. Fortunately, some skin changes are worrying but not harmful. One of these is seborrheic keratosis. This may be a term most of us aren’t familiar with, but it is a fairly common, benign skin growth that affects people after 40. Cleveland Clinic estimates that about 30% of people have at least one after age 40 and 75% of people by the age of 70.

What is a Seborrheic Keratosis, and How is it Diagnosed?

Seborrheic keratosis (SK) is also known as a barnacle or wisdom wart. Besides the not-so-delightful names it goes by, what is seborrheic keratosis? It is a benign, non-cancerous growth that typically is light tan, brown, or black. As a nod to some of its names, these growths can grow to be scaly, crusty, and have a wart-like appearance. Others may have a flat and smooth look, and while one can appear independently, multiple growths are more common. The places on the body where SKs usually are found are on the back, below the breasts, and along the hairline. They can also be found on the face, scalp, and shoulders.

If you find yourself with a growth that looks like a seborrheic keratosis, the best way to get it diagnosed is to consult a skin specialist. A Board-Certified Dermatologist will perform a physical examination of your skin and will be able to identify it by the appearance of the growth. These growths can sometimes look like skin cancer, and your Provider might perform a skin biopsy to rule it out. SK is usually asymptomatic but sometimes can be itchy and bleed when it becomes irritated by your clothing or jewelry. They should be evaluated if they become symptomatic such as having intense itching, pain, or bleeding. You might also want to get them checked if they are growing or changing colors.

Though the cause of these growths is unknown, genetics seems to play a role as it tends to run in families. Genetics may also determine the number of seborrheic keratoses a person develops. They are most commonly seen in people over 40, but they may also develop during pregnancy or after estrogen replacement therapy. While there is no cure for SKs, they are not contagious.

Treatment Options

Treatment of seborrheic keratosis is not necessary, since it does not pose any threat to your health. Various treatment options are available, generally reserved for symptomatic lesions that start to hurt, itch, or bleed. You may also want to remove your lesions for cosmetic reasons. Your Board-Certified Dermatologist will review the options and risks with you. One or more treatments can be used, depending on different criteria your Provider will consider, such as the size of the growth, how deep it goes, and where it is located. When weighing your options, keep in mind that insurance companies do not cover cosmetic treatments.  

At Vitalogy Skincare, we offer the following treatments:

Cryotherapy: a method that uses liquid nitrogen to freeze and destroy the lesion. It normally falls off after a few days.

Shave biopsy: by using a scalpel blade, your Provider can shave off the growth.

Curettage: similar to the shaving method, but the lesion is scraped off using a tool called a curette.

Laser therapy: using an intense beam of light directed at the growth destroys the SK.

Electrocautery: this method burns off the growth using an electrical current.

Patients sometimes ask if the SK will return once it has been removed. The destroyed growth doesn’t come back, but you are more likely to get them in other places, especially as you age.

If you think you are getting a seborrheic keratosis or are concerned about a growth on your skin, consult with one of our Board-Certified Dermatologists or Certified Physician Assistants. Their extensive experience and passion for the care of their patients will ensure that you are getting great dermatological care. Book an appointment at any of our locations.

About our Provider

Tricia Winters, PA-C – is a Certified Physician Assistant with many years of experience specializing in Dermatology. She is certified by the National Commission on Certification of Physician Assistants and is licensed by the Texas State Board of Physician Assistant Examiners. Dedicated to the diagnosis and prevention of skin cancer and other skin ailments, Tricia emphasizes patient education and empowerment. She is also passionate about all aspects of Cosmetic Dermatology with a focus on creating customized treatments to help everyone achieve optimal results with a soft natural look.