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Keloids (scars)

Information And Treatment

A keloid is a protrusive, rubbery scar which has outgrown the boundaries of the wound that caused it. Made primarily of collagen, keloids may form as a result of an infected wound, surgery, a piercing, repeated trauma to a particular area of the skin, or acne scarring. These scars are often raised, discolored, itchy, and painful.

Keloids take root in scar tissue and continue to grow even after the wound has been filled in. In milder cases, they may be no larger than a small raised bump; severe keloids, however, may cover large areas of skin with unsightly scarring.

Scientists have estimated that roughly 10 percent of people are prone to spontaneously forming keloids. Those with darker skin are at greater risk, as are those with a family history of susceptibility to the scars. Doctors are not sure why keloids form, but suspect that it lies in a malfunction of the chemical signals which govern scarring and collagen growth.

Treating keloids has vexed doctors since the condition was first identified in 1806, and no treatment has been shown to be reliably successful. Surgical removal of the tissue is risky because the scar tissue from the surgery is more than likely to become a keloid itself, and may end up larger than the keloid removed.

Injections of cortisone, fluorouracil (a chemotherapeutic agent), and interferons (natural human antibodies) have all been shown to reduce the size of keloids, though they cannot remove them altogether.

Vascular and pulsed dye laser therapy have also been tried, with some success. These treatments are sometimes combined with surgery to attempt to prevent the reformation of a keloid once it's been removed.

Age range: Keloids are less common among pre-pubescent children.

Interesting Facts

Keloids were first described by Egyptian doctors in 1700 BC. Jean-Louis Alibert, a leading dermatologist in France, more accurately identified them in 1806.