Keloids are dense, fibrous scars that form after a skin injury heals. Unlike normal scars that flatten and fade over time, keloids are raised, dome- and claw-shaped, range in colour from pink to red and appear shiny. In addition, they tend to grow beyond the borders of an original wound, do not usually shrink spontaneously and can be itchy or tender to the touch. Most of all, they present cosmetic issues, especially when they form on the face, on the ear lobes after a piercing or spontaneously on the chest or back. While surgery, corticosteroid injections and compression seem to be the most aggressive and preferred method of choice, treatment is imprecise and not always successful. If you'd rather not opt for surgery, at least initially, there are methods -- some traditional and others alternative -- that might help reduce and prevent keloid formation.
- Skill level:
Resist the urge to pick a forming scab. Picking scabs stimulates the production of collagen, a component of scar tissue. Once the scab falls off, hydrate skin around the developing scar. If a keloid develops, topical treatments might reduce the swelling and growth of the keloid. Mederma, a topical gel made with extracts from onion and allium-based plants, can lighten and improve the scar's surface, according to the website Homemade Remedies. The site recommends applying the gel three to four times a day while the scar is still new.
Add foods rich in Vitamin E to your diet. Vitamin E, or tocopherol found in tomatoes and peppers has been found to accelerate the body's healing process. Additionally, bioflavonoids, or the antioxidants that impart colour, fragrance and flavour to fruits has antibacterial, fibrinolytic, antihistamine-releasing and antiproliferative effects on both normal and malignant cells. While keloids are not considered malignant tumours, they do respond to interferon and chemotherapy derived drugs used in battling malignant cancer. Quercetin, a powerful bioflavonoid, can be found in onions, apples, red wine and black tea, states eMedicine.
Practice good hygiene with the wound's cleanliness and dressing. If the wound is open, cover with clean dressing. If the scar begins to keloid, talk with your dermatologist about the best course of treatment. While keloids do not consistently respond to one particular course of treatment, your doctor may suggest two or three methods to be used in combination. For example, in 50 per cent of cases where surgical removal alone was chosen in treating keloids, the scar returned and sometimes more aggressively. However, when partnered with silicon pads, compression therapy (wearing pressurised bandages for extended periods of time) and corticosteroid injections, success rates improved significantly, according to eMedicine.
Consider alternative, holistic treatments like tissue massage. Like compression therapy, massage has been shown to reduce the cohesiveness of the collagen fibres that make up the scar tissue. It increases circulation to the area, relieves pain and tightness and softens the scar. In addition to massage, topical applications of lavender oil, sandalwood paste and aloe vera have been shown to lighten and improve the texture of the scar, according to Skin Care at Home.
Take preventive measures if you're prone to keloid formation. The best way to deal with a keloid is not to get one. Generally speaking, if you or members of your family are prone to keloid development, avoid elective skin surgeries or procedures such as piercing. Additionally, avoid suntanning and cigarette smoking. Both contribute to changes in the skin that reduce healthy collagen production, contribute to premature ageing and cause free radical oxidation in the skin which affect the skin's natural regenerative process, states the University of Texas Science Center.
Understand your family's genetic predisposition. The highest incidence of keloids is found in the black and Asian populations. According to the National Institutes of Health, the figure is estimated between 4 and 6 per cent, and upwards of 16 per cent in random samples of black Africans. In fact, aggressive keloids, also known as "morbid" keloids, are more common in Afro-Caribbean populations than in populations from northern European countries.
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- Skin Care at Home: Keloid Scar Treatment
- Public Affairs University of Texas at Houston: Smoking and Skin Healing
- Medicine Net: Keloid Scarring Causes and Treatments
- NIH: Genetic Susceptibility to Keloid Scarring: SMAD Gene SNP Frequencies in Afro-Caribbeans
- Medscape: Genetic Susceptibility to Raised Dermal Scarring
- Biocutis: How To Most Effectively Get Rid of Keloid Scars Through Non-Surgical Methods