Seborrheic Keratoses – Bothersome Barnacles of the Skin!

Seborrheic keratoses of the back. Photo by James Heilman MD

One of the most frequent growths that brings patients into the office are seborrheic keratoses.  Frequently mistaken for moles, they are most commonly brown “stuck-on” growths that can occur essentially anywhere on the body.  They tend to arise in adulthood and have a likely genetic inheritance.  Most of my patients refer to them as barnacles, nuisance growths, age spots, or “moles.”

So now the important question… how do you get rid of them?

Seborrheic keratoses can be frozen off by a process called cryotherapy, scraped (curetted) off, cut out (not usually optimal), or burned off with an electric needle if small.  If they are pretty flat, lasers can be used to remove them as well.  Be careful how you get them removed though. I have seen patients left with bad darkening or lightening of the skin as well as scarring after removal.  As with most cosmetic procedures, it’s best not to be tan in general during the procedure as that could increase risk of pigmentary change of the skin.  If you are concerned about a particular growth or interested in removal, schedule an appointment with a dermatologist who can evaluate the growth to 1) make sure it is indeed a benign growth, and 2) counsel you on the best way to remove the growth.

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