Last reviewed by Editorial Team on August 13th, 2018.
What is Keloid?
Keloid is defined as an overgrowth of scar tissue that develops at the site of an injury. It is an unusual and benign proliferation of the scar tissue that grows beyond the boundary of the original incision or injury site and which has no potential for malignancy. The growth of keloid can be mild or it can be severe which can hinder in movement of the affected part of the body.
Keloid was first described during the 1700 B.C. and was termed as cheloide which means crab’s claw. The term cheloide describes the manner of the keloid growth which is sideways towards the normal skin and beyond the boundary of the original wound. Keloid can affect people globally and from all age groups including children with the peak onset around the age of 10 years to 30 years. It equally affects both male and female without racial predilection although keloid is more common in dark skinned individuals. Keloid is found to be more common among Asians and dark skinned individuals and with the least incidence among albinos and white skinned individuals.
Keloid is a type of scar that never ceases to grow beyond the size of the original wound. A scar is a component of the body’s natural healing process. It is meant to replace a normal skin after it has gone through an injury or wound or has been damaged. A scar is generally composed of fibrous tissue which is formed when the deep layer of the skin is damaged or wounded and incised. The natural healing process of the body includes the scar formation in the attempt to repair the damage thus, the formation of scar. Keloid on the other hand is a scar formation that does not regress or ceases to grow resulting in an overgrowth of the scar tissue. Keloid however, is not a serious and life-threatening skin condition but can be a nuisance in terms of the cosmetic aspect.
Keloid is crab-craw like in appearance owing to the manner it grows outside the margin of the original wound. It is different and not to be mistaken with another type of scar known as a hypertrophic scar with which the latter is rather a raised scar that does not extend beyond the margin of the original wound. Keloid has its distinct characteristics which are different from hypertrophic scar and such characteristics include the following:
- A keloid can occur even with a tiny cut or wound and occur after the skin has been damaged
- A keloid is different from any other scar as it extends way beyond the original damaged area or wound
- A keloid can linger for so many years or may stay until lifetime
Keloid is usually asymptomatic and the only concern is the embarrassment it can cause due to its unappealing appearance especially when it develops in an area that can be easily seen. Keloid commonly develops in the shoulder, chest, back and the ear lobes yet it can occur in any area or part of the body where a cut or an abrasion occurs. In some cases, a keloid may cause symptoms and the patient may have a burning and itching sensation. The keloid can also have a needle-like pain or may even hurt but the degree of symptoms varies and differ from one person to another.
The keloid is a type of scar that is rather exaggerated in appearance. It is an elevated scar or a dome-type scar that extends outside the margin of the wound and may sometimes grow bigger than the original wound. The surface of the keloid is shiny and without any hair and feels hard and rubbery and the color is often reddish or purplish and becomes darker or paler overtime.
Keloid is a deviation from the normal healing process of the wound that occur when there is a presence of a deep wound. Normally, a scar develops in an effort to repair the damaged area through the formation of fibrous tissue. A keloid is an abnormal proliferation of the normal skin during the process of natural healing.
The exact cause of keloid remains unknown although there are several speculations associating fibroblast, Matrix Metalloproteinase-2 and Tissue Inhibitors of Metalloproteinases to the onset of keloid. Genetic factor has also been suspected to cause the formation of keloid although there has been no clear proof of this. Other speculations linking the incidence include problems with hormonal and problems with the immune system. Keloid on the other hand develops when there is a presence of break or damage to the deep layer of the skin brought by wounds, incision and abrasion and also develops even with the smallest cut in the skin.
Injuries to the skin that can lead to keloid may include the following:
- Pierce or ear piercing
- Scars brought by chickenpox
- Scars from acne spots
- Piercing from vaccination
- Surgical incision
Keloid is not a serious or life-threatening condition but is a cosmetic problem that can cause embarrassment. Keloid on the other hand has no specific treatment and some are rather not satisfying. The treatment may sometimes need a combination or two or more method of treatment in order to achieve a satisfactory result. The treatment may also be needed to be done repeatedly to come out with a good and satisfying result.
The treatment for keloid may include the following:
- Steroid treatment through injection works well in minimizing the size of the keloid. Triamcinolone is a steroid treatment that is directly injected into the scar over a period of 2 to 6 weeks or until the scar has improved.
- Cytotoxic medicines act by slowing down the tissue proliferation and are often used for the treatment of cancer. This medication however can also be used for the treatment of keloid.
Removal of the keloid is necessary if it has grown bigger or become oversize. Some patients intended to remove the keloid for cosmetic purposes in which keloid has become disturbing. Several methods are utilized for the removal of keloid and this may include the following:
- Surgery is indicated for bigger scars although this method can even cause another keloid. Surgical removal is therefore recommended to be done in combination with other treatments to prevent the keloid from happening.
- Laser therapy is believed to give a better result with only a few side-effects. This method is used as an alternative to traditional methods of treating keloid.
- Cryosurgery is the method of removing keloid through the use of liquid nitrogen in freezing the scar which will eventually fall off after the treatment.