Keratoses aren’t contagious, but they are thought to be hereditary, so you are more likely to have them if your parents & other close family members have them.
There are a number of treatment options for keratoses, depending on your individual case, ranging from topicals (medicated creams, ointments & gels), cryotherapy (freezing them with liquid nitrogen, which eventually causes them to fall off), curettage (where the patches are removed under local anaesthetic), light therapy, or minor surgery.
Make an appointment with a dermatologist to discuss your options, the side effects & potential benefits of each one.
Keratosis is a term for a growth on the skin made of keratin, which is made by the keratinocyte cells of the skin’s epidermis. The main types of keratosis are actinic keratosis (a non-cancerous growth caused by long-term sun damage), seborrheic keratosis (also non-cancerous but not related to sun exposure), & keratosis pilaris (a harmless but chronic skin rash).
Actinic keratosis (solar keratosis): a common, noncancerous patch of skin that can be pink, red, brown, or skin-coloured, with a scaly, rough, or scratchy surface. They can be flat or elevated, & itchy or sore. They usually appear on areas of skin that have seen a lot of sun, such as the face, forearms & hands, scalp, lower legs, & ears. They can look similar to cancerous skin growths.
Seborrheic keratosis: a tan, brown, or black growth, with a scaly, waxy appearance, slightly elevated from the skin surface. They often look similar to warts, with a round or oval shape, & can appear on their own or in clusters. These usually appear on the face, shoulders, back, or chest. They are not painful or dangerous but can be itchy, & sometimes are removed for cosmetic purposes or if they are an irritation, depending on their size & location.
It is important not to pick at them or scratch them, as this can lead to bleeding, inflammation, & infection. They are more common in people over 50 years of age.
Keratosis pilaris (follicular keratosis): patches of skin covered in small, painless bumps (where the hair follicle has become blocked with a build-up of keratin), which are red, white, or the same colour as the skin. They usually appear on the upper arms, thighs, or buttocks. They can be itchy, better with warm weather & exacerbated by cold weather.
Keratoses are not contagious but do tend to run in families & you are more likely to have them if your parents had them. In all cases of keratoses, it is important to look out for any growths on the skin that:
- Grow quickly
- Are painful, sore, or tender
- Don’t heal
- Appear suddenly
All of these signs can indicate a cancerous growth & should be checked by a dermatologist.