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Keloids

A keloid is a growth of extra scar tissue. It occurs where the skin has healed after an injury.

Causes

Keloids can form after skin injuries from:

  • Acne
  • Burns
  • Chickenpox
  • Ear or body piercing
  • Minor scratches
  • Cuts from surgery or trauma
  • Vaccination sites

Keloids are most common in people younger than 30. Blacks, Asians, and Hispanics are more prone to developing keloids. Keloids often run in families. Sometimes, a person may not recall what injury caused a keloid to form.

Symptoms

A keloid may be:

  • Flesh-colored, red, or pink
  • Located over the site of a wound or injury
  • Lumpy or ridged
  • Tender and itchy
  • Irritated from friction such as rubbing on clothing

A keloid will tan darker than the skin around it if exposed to sun during the first year after it forms. The darker color may not go away.

Exams and Tests

Your doctor will look at your skin to see if you have a keloid. A skin biopsy may be done to rule out other types of skin growths (tumors).

Treatment

Keloids often DO NOT need treatment. If the keloid bothers you, these things can be done to reduce the size:

  • Corticosteroid injections
  • Freezing (cryotherapy)
  • Laser treatments
  • Radiation
  • Surgical removal
  • Silicone gel or patches

These treatments, especially surgery, sometimes cause the keloid scar to become larger.

Outlook (Prognosis)

Keloids usually are not harmful to your health, but they may affect how you look.

When to Contact a Medical Professional

Call your health care provider if:

  • You develop keloids and want to have them removed or reduced
  • You develop new symptoms

Prevention

When you are in the sun:

  • Cover a keloid that is forming with a patch or adhesive bandage.
  • Use sunblock.

Continue to follow these steps for at least 6 months after injury or surgery for an adults. Children may need up to 18 months of prevention.

Imiquimod cream may help prevent keloids from forming after surgery. The cream also prevents keloids from returning from after they are removed.

Alternative Names

Keloid scar; Scar - keloid

References

Berman B, Huo R, Viera M. Keloids. In: Lebwohl MG, Heymann WR, Berth-Jones J, Coulson I, eds. Treatment of Skin Disease: Comprehensive Therapeutic Strategies. 4th ed. Philadelphia, PA: Elsevier; 2014:chap 116.

Patterson JW. Disorders of collagen. In: Patterson JW, ed. Weedon's Skin Pathology. 4th ed. Philadelphia, PA: Elsevier Churchill Livingstone; 2016:chap 11.

Review Date 10/24/2016

Updated by: David L. Swanson, MD, Vice Chair of Medical Dermatology, Associate Professor of Dermatology, Mayo Medical School, Scottsdale, AZ. Also reviewed by David Zieve, MD, MHA, Isla Ogilvie, PhD, and the A.D.A.M. Editorial team.