[By Lim Shan-Yi]
Some scars grow lumpy and larger than the wound they are healing. This can happen to anybody, but is more common in people with darker skin, such as Asians, African-Caribbean and Indian communities.
The body’s tissue naturally heals itself when it is damaged. This healing process can cause scars to appear. If the skin is broken (for example by a cut, bite, scratch, burn or acne), the body produces more of a protein called collagen.
What are keloid scars?
Collagen gathers around the damage and builds up to help the wound seal over. The resulting scar usually fades over time, becoming smoother and less noticeable. However, some scars don’t stop growing. They ‘invade’ the surrounding healthy skin and become bigger than the original wound. These are known as keloid scars.
“A keloid scar is an overgrown scar that can spread outside the original area of skin damage,” says Dr Chua Han Boon of the Sloane Clinic. “Keloid scars are shiny and hairless, they’re raised above the surrounding skin, and can feel hard and rubbery.” Keloids affect around 10-15% of all wounds. They can appear anywhere on the body but usually form on the shoulders, head and neck.
They can last for years and sometimes don’t form until months or years after the initial injury. New keloid scars are sometimes red or purple. They’re not usually painful, but some people feel embarrassed or upset if they think the scar is disfiguring them. Experts don’t fully understand why keloid scarring happens, but these scars are not contagious (they’re not catching) and there is no risk of them turning into cancer.
What is the treatment for keloid scars?
There are several treatments available and include:
- Applying steroid-impregnated tape to the area for 12 hours a day
- Applying a silicone sheet to the area at night for several months (however, there is not much evidence that this works)
- Steroid injections
- V-Beam laser is effective at flattening the lesion and reducing the redness associated with it. “In my practice I usually combine intra-lesional steroid injections with V-Beam for optimal results” says Dr Chee
- Surgery to remove the keloid (however, the keloid can grow back and may be larger than before)