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Barnacle Skin, Seborrheic Keratosis
Many of us never really pay attention to our skin until we notice something is abnormal with or on it. Sometimes there’s a growth that we are really not sure about, it doesn’t seem to be harmful, but our clothes rub it and it becomes irritated and/or itchy. It may be that we have a favorite piece of clothing that exposes it. Because of the growth’s unattractive appearance, looking raised, warty, or mole-like, we would just like it gone.

Before Googling ways to remove it yourself at home, please see a doctor, preferably a Dr. Jochen. While it’s easy to see online pictures and think we have found our ailment, it’s best to leave diagnosis to the trained professionals.

The official name of the alien growth is most probably seborrheic keratosis (seb-o-REE-ik ker-uh-TOE-sis). Commonly called Seb-Ks, or Skin Barnacles.

This is one of the most common noncancerous skin growths in older adults. Seb-Ks usually start to appear as slightly raised, skin colored or light brown spots. With time, they start to thicken and develop a rough, waxy, scaly, warty texture. They appear to stick on to the skin like barnacles do on the bottom of boats (hence the layman’s term Skin Barnacles). They will slowly darken to be brown and may get as dark as looking black. For this type of skin abnormality these color changes are harmless but do end up looking like a type of skin cancer called melanoma. Again, that’s why it is important to have them checked by your doctor.

They can appear anywhere on the body but most typically show up on the face, chest, shoulders or back. Sometimes, you can get just one, but more often it shows up in multiple growths. Seborrheic keratoses are normally painless and require no treatment, but many decide to have them removed because they become irritated by clothing and simply just don’t look good. Picking at them can lead to inflammation and bleeding with the rare case of infection.

There is yet to be a determined exact cause of seborrheic keratosis. They are very common, generally increase in number with age, and you may be more likely to develop the condition if you are older than 40 with a family history of seborrheic keratosis. As they do tend to run in some families, inheritance is thought to play a role although anyone can develop seborrheic keratoses.
Should you see a doctor? Yes, especially if you notice that you have several growths developing over a short period of time like a few weeks to months. Seborrheic keratoses tend to appear one or two at a time over many years. If the growths are irritated or bleed when your clothing rubs against them, it may be that the growths need to be removed. If you notice suspicious changes in your skin, like sores or growths that grow rapidly, bleed and will not heal. These could be signs of skin cancer.

Your doctor can usually diagnose seborrheic keratosis by inspecting the growth. If your doctor is at all uncertain, she/he might recommend removal so the tissue can be examined under a microscope.

Removal of seborrheic keratoses can include one of several methods:

  • Cryosurgery (liquid nitrogen).This works better on smaller growths and it may lighten the treated skin.
  • Electrocautery (burning with an electric current). This can be used alone or with curettage (scraping of the skin’s surface with a special instrument). This procedure can leave scars if it’s not done properly, and it may take longer than other removal methods.
  • Laser Surgery (ablation). There are different types of laser treatments and your doctor may even apply pigment to the treatment areas to concentrate the laser light, helping to make it more effective.
  • Shave biopsy (shaving off with a scalpel). This can be done when there is uncertainty to the diagnosis and a further examination of the removed tissue is needed.

So, make an appointment to have your skin checked and discuss with your doctor your options.

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