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What is a Keloid?

Niki Foster
Updated May 17, 2024
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A keloid is a scar consisting mainly of type I and some type III collagen, along with elastin, fibronectin, and proteoglycans. The scar presents as a raised area at the site of a former wound. They are benign tumors that can can expand well beyond the area of the original wound. They are firm and rubbery or shiny in appearance, and range from pink to red to dark brown in color. Scars are often accompanied by sharp pain and itching, and in some cases, they can impair movement, especially if located over a joint.

A keloid can form from any type of skin injury or abrasion, including cosmetic piercings, surgery, insect bites, burns, acne, and shaving irritation. More rarely, one can form spontaneously. These tumors are fifteen times more likely in people with very high skin pigmentation, and those of African descent may be have an increased risk of developing keloids, regardless of their skin color. People can develop a keloid at any age, though they are less likely in children under 11.

There is no surefire cure for scarring. In extreme cases, such as when the tumor becomes infected and turns into an ulcer, surgery may be performed, but there is at least a 50% chance of recurrence in surgically removed keloids, and the recurring scar may be even larger than the original one. The earlier one begins treatment to reduce or eliminate the tumors, the better the prognosis. When possible, prevention is the best course of action against keloids. A person with a history of them should avoid cosmetic piercings or other body modification, including non-essential surgeries, and should take special care with healing wounds.

They may be treated with a variety of topical applications, including aspirin paste, tea tree oil, silicone gel dressings, and natural mucin. Compression therapy, in which bandages are tightly worn over the scar, can reduce the keloid's appearance. More invasive treatment options include cryosurgery, laser or radiation therapy, and injections of steroids, interferon, or the chemotherapy drug fluorouracil.

WiseGEEK is dedicated to providing accurate and trustworthy information. We carefully select reputable sources and employ a rigorous fact-checking process to maintain the highest standards. To learn more about our commitment to accuracy, read our editorial process.
Niki Foster
By Niki Foster , Writer

In addition to her role as a WiseGEEK editor, Niki enjoys educating herself about interesting and unusual topics in order to get ideas for her own articles. She is a graduate of UCLA, where she majored in Linguistics and Anthropology.

Discussion Comments

By anon960034 — On Jul 08, 2014

Has anyone had any success?

By anon346875 — On Sep 01, 2013

Did agnijith work for you guys?

By anon247927 — On Feb 15, 2012

I have a scar on the top of my hand. It's lumpy and will not go away. I would like to know how to get rid of it.

By anon147651 — On Jan 30, 2011

Try Agnijith balm, check out the website. I'm currently trialling it now. I have faith it will work. Its worth trying. When there's a problem, there's got to be a solution.

By anon94974 — On Jul 11, 2010

My daughter is 12 years old now. When she was 11 months old, my mother in law burned my daughter. i say burned her because she left a boiling hot tea kettle at the end of the kitchen table.

I wasn't at home that day and i always hold myself responsible for that happening. My daughter started walking very early and she saw her toy on the table. While trying to get that she pulled the boiling kettle off the table. It burned her face almost missing her eyes, her chest and her arms. I got home a few minutes after that happened and heard my daughter screaming and crying. When i came in the house i saw her small body burned, with blisters popping up. I rushed her to hospital at around 8 a.m., but she was only attended to at 10 a.m.

I was in total shock. After a week of staying with her at hospital, and the docs saying it was a third degree burn, she had developed keloids. After the burns had healed, she had to see a dermatologist, who said that we should use something called a garment with a cold gel like plaster. For almost a year she had to wear that. It did help to stop the keloid growth, but she still has it. It's just under her cheek and chin, on the one side of her breast and her arm.

I wish i could go back and change the past, but that i can't do. I just wish i knew how to help her now.

By neisha12 — On Jun 20, 2009

I think it's unfair that i have keloid. I do not know what to do, prom is coming up.

Niki Foster

Niki Foster


In addition to her role as a WiseGEEK editor, Niki enjoys educating herself about interesting and unusual topics in...

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