Keloid scars

Dear Alice,

I have several keloid scars on my body. I have tried injections to make them smaller, but they later grew bigger as I put on weight. Is there anything out there that can successfully remove my keloid scars without having to worry that they will come back?

Thank you.

Dear Reader,

Typically, when the body gets into a scrape, its cells divide and conquer to repair the tissue damage. The cells stop multiplying once the wound is filled in, but in some cases, cells keep dividing, piling up on the skin to form a raised, reddish scar called a keloid. They can come in all shapes and sizes, and for those who have keloids, they're more likely to develop another in the future. For many people, they develop them after scarring, such as after a cut, acne, or after surgery. Others develop them even if the skin hasn’t been punctured or opened in anyway, and these are called “spontaneous” keloids. Although there hasn’t yet been one method found that is guaranteed to remove them without coming back, there are ways to reduce the likelihood of them coming back. Keep on reading to learn more about how to treat the keloids you already have, as well as how to prevent more in the future.

As you've experienced, these pesky scars are notoriously difficult to remove. After treatment, keloids often crop up again. Once a keloid appears, no removal technique is 100 percent effective. However, they can be more effective when various forms of treatment are combined to target the keloid. For example, when keloids are surgically removed, they almost always return. However, if a pressure garment is worn as directed after the surgical removal, the likelihood of preventing another keloid is rather high, with research indicating that 90 to 100 percent of patients can prevent them when the two methods are combined. Some of the other methods of keloid removal include injections (as you’ve noted), laser treatments, silicone sheets, cryotherapy (freezing it off), radiation treatments, and ligature (tying of surgical thread around it) of the keloid. You may find it helpful to speak with your health care provider to understand if combining different methods may help you reduce them more permanently.

In the future, it may be helpful to prevent new ones from developing. Anyone who is prone to developing keloids (including darker skinned folks who seem more susceptible) have a higher risk of developing more in the future. You may want to closely pay attention to the skin after any new piercings. If you notice any thickening after a piercing, remove the piercing and put in a pressure earring (an earring that places pressure on the area to prevent a keloid). You’ll likely want to avoid getting the area pierced again. If you’re interested in a tattoo, it can be helpful to get a tattoo in a small area first as a test before getting an entire tattoo to see if the skin would thicken and cause a keloid. If you’re going to be having surgery, be sure to let the surgeon know that you’re prone to keloids. This may help them take some measures to help you prevent getting additional keloids after surgery. If you get any wounds, you’ll want to make sure to keep it clean and protected from the sun in order to prevent scarring. Once it begins to heal, silicone sheets can be used to prevent scars.  

Before you try another treatment, you may want to consider your standpoint on scars. For example, what bothers you about the keloids? Are you troubled by the scars’ appearances? Are scars associated with painful memories? Do you find them uncomfortable (painful, itchy)? Are they limiting your movement? Since it's likely that the keloids will creep back, how much do you want to you to invest in treatments? If you decide you want to try another remedy, you may find it helpful to locate a dermatologist who specializes in the treatment of scars. They may be able to recommend the treatment plan that is more appropriate for you.

Good luck,

Last updated Sep 21, 2018
Originally published Dec 24, 2010

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