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Keloid Scars

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If you’ve never heard of keloid scars, you’re not alone. People whose racial makeup is Caucasian or Asian might not have reason to know about them. If you’re of African American descent, however, it’s likely you’ve not only heard of keloids, you’ve probably seen them on friends or relatives. And you may know that they can be one of the most frustrating skin problems around.

Keloid scars, also referred to as “keloidal scars,” are raised, shiny, bubble-like benign growths primarily made up of collagen. They usually form on the face, ears, neck, chest, shoulders and back. They are much more common among African Americans and others with highly pigmented skin than among those with lighter skin. Keloids usually arise as a result of surgery, piercing, chicken pox, acne, insect bites and stings or repeated trauma, but they can also form spontaneously, for no apparent reason at all.

Even if you’ve never seen one, you can probably imagine that keloid scars can be very unsightly. They can also be irritating for those who suffer from them as they can interfere with clothing and jewelry. Keloids often itch and burn as they grow well beyond the boundaries of a normal scar. Occasionally keloid scars can grow quite large, covering an entire ear or other body part. In some cases they even impede movement.

If that description doesn't make keloids sound frustrating enough, it should be noted that when they're surgically removed they often reoccur. And it’s not at all unusual for a second keloid to be larger than the first. Experienced dermatologists, head and neck surgeons and plastic surgeons are therefore extra careful to disturb the skin as little as possible when performing keloid removal and to close the wound with minimal tension.

Today, surgical removal is usually combined with other procedures to minimize the chance that a new keloid scar will form. Physicians often use special wound coverings after surgery and some use compression dressings. Steroid injections are another measure surgeons can take when new scars are forming to discourage out-of-control growth.

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We value and respect our HERWriters' experiences, but everyone is different. Many of our writers are speaking from personal experience, and what's worked for them may not work for you. Their articles are not a substitute for medical advice, although we hope you can gain knowledge from their insight.