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This is a 2 part series which covers the most common causes of facial skin growth. We will cover how to identify these skin growths, the treatments available for these growths and whether there is the possibility of recurrence.
Types of skin growths and treatment
1) Seborrheic keratosis
These are extremely common lesions. 30% of people have at least one of these by the age of 40 and they affect over 70% of people by the age of 70.
They look waxy, the colour may be brown or dark blue or even black. They appear as if it is stuck onto the skin. Some resemble barnacles and they can vary in size from tiny ones to 2-3cm big ones.
There are often no symptoms though they can be itchy at times and are usually found on the scalp, face, shoulder, chest, abdomen and back.
Seborrheic keratosis are harmless and often no treatment is necessary.
However, removal can be done
- for aesthetic reasons
- if it causes problem like itching or irritation when rubbed against clothes or jewelleries
- or if there are suspicion of skin cancer.
Removal methods includes :
- Cryosurgery : Liquid nitrogen is applied to the growth with a cotton swab or a spray gun causing the lesion to freeze and fall off after a few days.
- Electrocautery : to remove the growth by burning them away using electrical energy.
- Laser : using ablative laser like co2 or erbium yag.
Take note that seborrheic keratosis are often due to age and therefore new lesions are prone to occur.
2) Sebaceous hyperplasia (oil gland pimples)
A very common benign skin condition involving oil glands of our skin that affect adults of middle ages and older.
These growths are often beige or yellowish in colour and appear mostly on the forehead, nose and cheeks, they can also occur on any part of the body except the palms and soles.
Close inspection reveal a central dent representing hair follicle surrounded by yellowish protruding lobules.
The cause is usually due to ageing, but familial cases have been reported, in which younger individuals are affected with multiple lesions suggesting a genetic predisposition.
Also, patients who are on cyclosporin A ( which is an immunosuppression drug ) seem to have a much higher incidence of Sebaceous hyperplasia.
They are harmless and no treatment is necessary and can be removed for
- cosmetic reasons or
- if they are bothersome or irritated by clothes and jewelleries
Removal methods involve :
- Ablative lasers
- or in severe cases, even oral isotretinoin.
3) Skin tags
These are small, soft and flesh-coloured benign skin growth. They may resemble a soft deflated balloon suspended on a slender stalk.
They are probably the single most common bump on an adult’s skin.
They are harmless but can be an annoying skin problem as it can get irritated or pulled by clothes or during everyday activities.
Almost everyone will develop a skin tag at some time of their lives but middle aged, obese adults are more prone to having it.
Occasionally some of these smaller skin tags may drop off on its own. Removal often is not necessary and it can be done for
- cosmetic reasons
- or if they become a source of irritation or discomfort ( when it gets pressed against the bed when sleeping, or when it constantly gets irritated during movement such as if it was growing under your armpit or the groin area )
Removal methods involves :
- Cutting it off with a surgical knife or scissors
- Burning it off with electrocautery or ablative lasers
- Strangulation with a ligature.
By : Dr Chen Yiming
Family Physician, MBBS (Singapore), GDFM (NUS), GDFP Dermatology (NUS)