Dermatofibromas tend to look far worse than they actually are.  The appearance of these growths may be disturbing but they are in no way a cause for distress, as they are entirely benign and more often than not totally asymptomatic.

In clinical terms a dermatofibroma, also sometimes referred to as a histiocytoma, is a growth in the fibrous tissue of the derma.  The derma is the second layer of skin, beneath the outer epidermis.  Because these growths occur in a lower layer of skin they are deeper seated than most and removing them can be more difficult.  They are generally no more than 1 cm in diameter and can range in color from pink to brown.  They usually form on the lower legs or upper arms.

What causes these growths?

We don’t know why people grow dermatofibromas. Some may be caused by insect bites. Fortunately they are harmless and never turn cancerous. Though we don’t know the exact cause of these growths, they are most commonly an aftereffect of some kind of trauma to the skin.  Aside from insect bites, they may be caused by a pin prick, the jab of a thorn or after receiving an injection.

What’s the best treatment option?

Dermatofibromas are best ignored. If the diagnosis is uncertain, a piece may be removed for tissue analysis.

When a dermatofibroma gets in the way of shaving or is irritated by clothing, it can be flattened by freezing with liquid nitrogen. The freezing destroys only the upper part of the growth. Therefore, the growth, after some years, may again become noticeable. Usually any regrowth is slight and can be handled by another freezing. If there is any unusual change or marked regrowth of a dermatofibroma, make sure you let your dermatologist know about it.

In some cases, these growths may disappear spontaneously, but more often than not they will be permanent.   Usually, they don’t cause any other symptoms but occasionally, if they are in a location where they are easily irritated, they may cause some itching or slight pain.

Surgical removal is possible but since the growths are in the under layer of skin, excising them is more difficult and will leave a permanent scar that will be as noticeable as the growth itself.  For this reason, unless the growth is causing problems with shaving or wearing clothing, it is highly recommended that you leave it alone.

Of course, if you notice any kind of change to the appearance of your skin or any kind of sudden, unusual pigmented growth, you should always consult your doctor to make sure that it is not a skin cancer.  Proper and early diagnosis is always the key to successfully treating skin cancer.