Seborrheic Keratosis

Birthmarks are abnormal skin discolorations in spots that are either present at birth or appear shortly thereafter. They can be flat or slightly raised from the skin. They can be any number of colors, including red, brown, black, tan, pink, white or purple. Birthmarks are generally harmless. There are two major categories of birthmarks: pigmented birthmarks and red birthmarks.

Pigmented Birthmarks can grow anywhere on the skin and at any time. They are usually black, brown or skin-colored and appear singly or in groups. They can be moles (congenital nevi) that are present at birth, Mongolian spots, which look like bluish bruises and appear more frequently on people with dark skin, or café-au-lait spots that are flat, light brown or tan and roughly form an oval shape.

Red Birthmarks (also known as macular stains) develop before or shortly after birth and are related to the vascular (blood vessel) system. There are a number of different types:

  • Angel kisses, which usually appear on the forehead and eyelids.
  • Stork bites, which appear on the back of the neck, between the eyebrows on the forehead, or on eyelids of newborns. They may fade away as the child grows, but often persist into adulthood.
  • Port-wine stains, which are flat deep-red or purple birthmarks made up of dilated blood capillaries (small blood vessels). They often appear on the face and are permanent.
  • Strawberry hemangiomas, composed of small, closely packed blood vessels that grow rapidly and can appear anywhere on the body. They usually disappear by age nine.
  • Cavernous hemangiomas are similar to strawberry hemangiomas but go more deeply into the layers of the skin. These can often be characterized by a bluish-purple color. They also tend to disappear naturally around school age.

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Also known as seborrheic verruca, most people will develop at least one seborrheic keratosis during a lifetime. Fortunately, these lesions are benign and don't become cancerous. They are characterized as brown, black or yellow growths that grow singly or in groups and are flat or slightly elevated. Often they are mistaken for warts. Generally, no treatment is required unless the growth becomes irritated from chafing against clothing. However, because it look similar in appearance to precancerous growths (actinic keratosis), your dermatologist will likely biopsy the tissue to confirm the diagnosis.

If a seborrheic keratosis becomes irritated or unsightly, removal is conducted using one of these three methods:

  • Cryosurgery, which freezes off the growth using liquid nitrogen.
  • Curettage, in which the doctor scrapes the growth off the surface of the skin.
  • Electrocautery, used alone or in conjunction with curettage to burn off the tissue and stop the bleeding.