Part of my aromatherapy training involved doing a thesis. I chose to work on keratosis.

Keratosis is a skin condition that often develops in females (though not limited to females) as we age. While I have started to develop a few patches and I have a few friends who have as well, I do have one friend who has quite an extreme case of keratosis and she agreed to be my case study! What follows is an except from my thesis about what seborrheic keratosis is and how it is traditionally treated.

The Condition

Seborrheic keratosis is a skin growth. While it can often be confused with skin cancer by looking at it, it is a benign growth. The growths are generally round or oval and are slightly elevated on the skin. They can sometimes appear as if they have been stuck on top of the skin. This is partly because only the top layers of the epidermis are connected to this condition as the growth starts in the keratinocyte cells.

It generally appears in older people, sometimes starting in middle age. While it does effect both genders, it is more prevalent in female. Young people can be effected but it is much less common. Often they are found near areas that sweat – behind the knees for example.

There are several theories as to what causes seborrheic keratosis. It does seem to have a genetic component as it will often occur in family members. Exposure to the sun also seems to be a potential factor that increases your risk of developing seborrheic keratosis. Though it can appear to be a wart, it is not and it is not contagious. When a growth is removed, often it does not return. However new growths can still form on another place on your body.

Traditional treatments

Once a doctor has determined that it is seborrheic keratosis and not skin cancer, generally no further treatment is required. If desired for cosmetic reasons or because the growth is irritated by clothing, they can be removed by several methods:

– electrocautery – burning the growth with an electrical current
– cryotherapy – freezing the growth with liquid nitrogen and then removing it
– curettage – scraping away most of the growth. It is sometimes also followed by electrocautery to remove the final bit of the growth.
– ablation – using lasers to remove the growth

All of the above treatment options will remove the keratosis growth and generally they do not return in the same place. It does not mean that another one won’t appear else where requiring another round of treatment.

Next week I’ll go into more details on how we chose to treat keratosis for my thesis!