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What are keloids?
After your skin is injured, your cells try to repair it by forming a scar. In some people, the scar tissue keeps forming long after the wound heals. This extra scar tissue causes a red, raised area on your skin that is called a keloid (say: “keyloyd”). Keloids don’t usually hurt, but they may feel itchy or sensitive to the touch.
Keloids can develop after your skin is burned or cut. They can also develop after you get a body piercing or a tattoo, or have surgery. Keloids sometimes show up 3 months or longer after your skin is injured. Some continue to grow for years.
CAUSES & RISK FACTORS
Who is more likely to develop a keloid?
You are more likely to develop a keloid if:
- You are of African, Latino or Asian descent
- You are younger than 30 years of age
- You are pregnant
- You are a teenager going through puberty
- You have a history of keloids in your family
People who have darker skin are 15% to 20% more likely to develop keloids. Certain areas of the body are more likely to scar than others. Keloids usually develop on the chest, shoulders, earlobes and cheeks.
How are keloids treated?
The goal of treatment is to flatten the keloid. Treatments include the following:
- Getting corticosteroid shots
- Freezing the scar
- Wearing silicone sheets over the scar
- Getting laser therapy
Some of these treatments are expensive and take time to work. Larger keloids can be removed with surgery and then treated with corticosteroid shots and silicone sheets to keep them from coming back. Different treatments work for different people. Contact your healthcare provider about which treatment option is right for you.
How can I prevent keloids?
People who are more likely to get keloids may decide not to get a body piercing or tattoo. If you get your ears pierced, you should wear special pressure earrings to reduce scarring on your earlobes.
If you need surgery, make sure your healthcare provider knows that you may get keloids. This is especially important if the surgery will affect an area that is likely to scar. Starting certain treatments right after surgery may help to prevent keloids. These treatments include corticosteroid shots and pressure dressings to help flatten the scar.
QUESTIONS TO ASK YOUR HEALTHCARE PROVIDER
- Why did I get a keloid?
- I’m having surgery. What can I do to avoid keloids?
- What is the best treatment for me?
- Will I need surgery to get rid of the keloid?
- Will an over-the-counter cream help?
- Should I avoid getting body piercings or tattoos?
- Will I need to take any medicines?
- What side effects could I experience from the medicine?
- Am I at high risk of developing keloids?
- Could the keloid come back?
Management of Keloids and Hypertrophic Scars by Gregory Juckett, MD, MPH, and Holly Hartman-Adams, MD (08/01/09, http://www.aafp.org/afp/20090801/253.html)