Keloids are a fairly common skin condition and one that can cause a lot of distress as they are not pleasant to look at. Fortunately, they are not dangerous in any way and generally don’t require any kind treatment, but some individuals seek treatment anyway for cosmetic purposes.
This is a condition that is more common among darker skinned individuals although anyone can develop a keloid at any time. They are defined as raised lumps of scar tissue that have a smooth top and are pink or purple in color. They can appear anywhere on the body, usually where there has been some sort of injury to the skin.
What causes these raised scars?
While doctors know little about the specific cause of keloid formation, these raised bumps are generally an outgrowth of the body’s normal reaction to injury. They do appear more frequently in dark-skinned individuals.
When the skin is injured, the body reacts by forming new skin to heal and protect itself. This skin, called scar tissue, is usually flat and faint in color and fades quickly. In some instances the production of scar tissue is sent into overdrive, resulting in the more prominent bumps known as keloids.
While most people never form keloids, others develop them after minor injuries and even insect bites or pimples. They may form on any part of the body, although the upper chest and upper back are especially prone to keloid formation.
It’s important to remember that while they are certainly a cosmetic nuisance, they never become malignant so you shouldn’t be concerned about a potential cancer risk.
What are the treatment options for keloids?
While there is no definitive solution, some doctors have had success injecting keloids with bleomycin, which is an anticancer drug.
The best treatment is to inject a long-acting cortisone into the keloid once a month. After several injections with cortisone, the keloid usually becomes less noticeable and flattens in three to six months time.
A newer treatment for keloids is to apply a silicone gel preparation over the scar for 12-24 hours each day. This treatment is started three to four weeks after the wound or injury. The gel preparation should be covered with an ace bandage, cloth wrap, or tape and changed every 7-10 days based upon need.
Silicone gel is available from your doctor. It can be washed and used over each day. With daily use, the keloid will become flatter and smoother within two to twelve months. We do not know exactly howthis treatment works.
In severe cases, where keloids have become irritated or are particularly unsightly, surgical measures can be used to remove them. This form of treatment is usually not recommended, however, as it can lead to further damage to the skin and the formation of more keloids. You should always consult with your doctor before considering any surgical treatment.
Recent studies have also identified interferon injections as having a positive effect in terms of reducing the appearance of keloids. Interferons are proteins produced by the immune system in order to fight off infection. Injections of interferons as well as topical application in cream form have both been studied and found to have limited effects.
The appearance of keloids can also be improved through the use of various natural substances that work to smooth and soften the skin. These include aloe vera, lemon juice, apple cider vinegar, lavender oil, honey and garlic.