All About Keloids
Keloids are lumpy scars that grow larger than the original injury. Age (between 10 and 30), ethnicity (Asian, African, or Hispanic), and a family history of them are risk factors. Silicon gel sheeting, steroid injections and tapes, surgery, and natural remedies can be used to treat them. Proper wound care, not exposing injured skin to the sun, using a silicon sheet or pressure garment may prevent them.
How often do you give a second thought to that minor cut on your feet or arm? But for some people, even minor scratches or cuts can lead to lumpy scars which turn out to be larger than the original wound. These scars are called keloid scars.
So, how does a keloid develop? Any break in your skin causes the body to produce more collagen, a protein which gives structure to skin. This builds up around the damaged skin and helps seal the wound. The result is a scar, one that usually fades over time. But some scars invade healthy skin and keep on growing, forming keloid scars.
Keloids are not as uncommon as you might think. It is estimated that around 10 to 15% of all wounds develop keloid scars. Thankfully, they’re not cancerous or contagious.1
What Do Keloids Look And Feel Like?
Though keloid scars can develop anywhere, they’re usually found on the shoulders, upper chest, back, neck, and head (particularly, the earlobes). They can also take some time to develop although most become visible within a year of the original injury that caused the scarring.
- Keloids are generally hairless, shiny, and bumpy, higher than the skin around.
- They are purple or red in color in the beginning before turning pale or brown. After a keloid stops growing, it’s usually darker than the person’s normal skin color.
- The edges of the scar tend to be darker than the center.
Shape And Size
You may observe some variation in the shape and size of keloids.
- For instance, a round or oval solid keloid is more common on an earlobe.
- On the chest or shoulder, it may tend to have the appearance of liquid which has spilled and hardened.
- The size might range from something tinier than an inch to something bigger than a football. Larger keloids are usually seen on the back and shoulders.
- All keloids feel different from the skin surrounding them. Some are doughy and soft while others may be rubbery and hard.
Sensation And Impact
- Though keloids are usually painless, you might experience tenderness, pain, itchiness, or a burning sensation in some cases. But these symptoms tend to go away when the keloid stops growing.
- If a keloid develops over a joint, you might find that it obstructs easy movement.2 3
What Causes Keloids?
We don’t yet know why skin scars in this manner for some people. But keloids can form after any skin injury, including minor scratches, cuts from trauma or surgery, acne, chicken pox, ear piercings, vaccinations etc.4
Sometimes, they also develop on uninjured skin. Known as “spontaneous keloids,” these scars are usually seen on the chest and develop in people with a family history of keloids.
Let’s look at some factors that can affect your risk of keloid scarring.
- Ethnicity: Keloid scars are more common among people of Asian, African, or Hispanic descent.
- Family history: Around 33% of people who develop keloids have a close blood relative (father, mother, brother, sister) with the condition.
- Age: People generally develop keloids between the ages of 10 and 30. It’s unusual for children or the elderly to get a keloid.
How Can You Treat Them?
Various options are available for treating keloids. Your doctor will help you choose what’s most appropriate for you. Conventional options available to you include:
- Flattening a keloid by applying a tape impregnated with steroids, using silicon gel sheeting, or taking steroid injections.
- You can also freeze keloids at an early stage with liquid nitrogen to prevent them from growing
- Laser treatments can be considered to decrease redness.
- Surgery too is used in some cases to remove keloids, though they may grow back.5
Natural remedies for keloids: You can also try some natural remedies to treat keloids. These include application of onion extract gel, garlic paste, or turmeric paste. Ayurvedic formulations such as those with gotu kola or brahmi can also be useful.
Tips To Prevent Keloids
Here are some things you can do to reduce the likelihood of getting a keloid scar:
- Avoid deliberate cuts such as piercings or tattoos on body parts like the back, shoulders, earlobes etc. which are prone to keloids.
- Treating acne promptly can lower your chances of developing acne scars.
- Practicing proper wound care can minimize your chances of developing a keloid scar. Clean, disinfect, and apply medicine promptly. Keeping a wound clean and moist – say, with a sterile petrolatum bandage – can reduce scarring.
- Exposure to ultraviolet light can increase scarring as well as cause your scar to darken in color. You can protect wounded skin with bandages or clothing. You’ll also want to use a sunblock when the injured skin isn’t covered. Follow these precautions after an injury or surgery for 18 months in the case of a child and 6 months in the case of an adult.
- If you anticipate a keloid forming around a scar or are prone to them, consult your doctor about using a silicone sheet or gel. Applying this immediately after the wound heals can prevent a keloid from forming.
- Your doctor may also advise you to wear a pressure garment, which applies continuous and controlled pressure on the affected area, to stop the formation of a keloid. For this to work, you need to start using the pressure garment as soon as you notice that your skin is thickening.6 7
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