Your doctor can usually tell whether you have a seborrheic keratosis by looking at the affected skin. If there is a question about the diagnosis, your doctor might recommend removing the growth so that it can be examined under a microscope.
A seborrheic keratosis typically doesn't go away on its own, but treatment isn't needed. You might choose to have it removed if it becomes irritated or bleeds, or if you don't like how it looks or feels.
Seborrheic keratosis removal can be achieved with one or a combination of the following methods:
- Freezing the growth. Freezing a growth with liquid nitrogen (cryotherapy) can be an effective way to remove a seborrheic keratosis. It doesn't always work on raised, thicker growths. This method carries the risk of permanent loss of pigment, especially on Black or brown skin.
- Scraping (curettage) or shaving the skin's surface. First your doctor will numb the area and then use a scalpel blade to remove the growth. Sometimes shaving or scraping is used along with cryosurgery to treat thinner or flat growths.
- Burning with an electric current (electrocautery). First your doctor will numb the area and then destroy the growth with electrocautery. This method can be used alone or with scraping, especially when removing thicker growths.
Talk with your doctors about the risks and benefits of each method. Some methods can cause permanent or temporary skin discoloration and scarring. After treatment, you might develop a new seborrheic dermatosis elsewhere on your body.
Preparing for your appointment
You're likely to start by seeing your primary care doctor. In some cases when you call to set up an appointment, you may be referred directly to a specialist in skin diseases (dermatologist).
Because appointments can be brief, it's a good idea to be well prepared for your appointment. Here's some information to help you get ready for your appointment.
What you can do
For a seborrheic keratosis, some basic questions to ask your doctor include:
- Are tests needed to confirm the diagnosis?
- What is the best course of action?
- Which treatments might cause scarring or permanent skin discoloration?
- Will the spot go away on its own?
- What will the treatments cost? Does medical insurance cover these costs?
- What suspicious changes in my skin should I look for?
Don't hesitate to ask other questions that come up during your appointment.
What to expect from your doctor
Your doctor may ask:
- When did you first notice the skin lesion?
- Have you noticed multiple growths?
- Have you noticed any changes in the growth?
- Is the condition bothersome?
- Do any family members also have this condition?
Jan. 18, 2022
- Seborrheic keratoses. American Academy of Dermatology. https://www.aad.org/public/diseases/a-z/seborrheic-keratoses-overview. Accessed July 9, 2021.
- AskMayoExpert. Seborrheic keratosis. Mayo Clinic; 2021.
- Kelly AP, et al., eds. Geriatrics. In: Taylor and Kelly's Dermatology for Skin of Color. 2nd ed. McGraw-Hill; 2016. https://accessmedicine.mhmedical.com. Accessed July 9, 2021.
- High WA, et al., eds. Special considerations in skin of color. In: Dermatology Secrets. 6th ed. Elsevier; 2021. https://clinicalkey.com. Accessed June 1, 2021.
- Goldstein BG, et al. Overview of benign lesions of the skin. https://www.uptodate.com/contents/search. Accessed July 13, 2021.
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