Sylvia Mugwaneza, 23, a business administration graduate is not only tall but also stunningly beautiful, except for a big dark swelling on her left ear lobe.
“Medics call it a Keloid scarring. It kills my confidence and makes me feel uncomfortable,” she confesses.
What are Keloids?
When the skin is injured, a fibrous tissue (called scar tissue) forms over the wound to repair and protect the injury. In some cases, scar tissue grows excessively, forming smooth, hard growths called keloids. Keloids can be much larger than the original wound, and are most commonly found on the chest, back, shoulders, and earlobes.
They seldom develop on the face (with the exception of the jawline). However, keloids can affect any part of the body.
Although keloids are not harmful to your health, they may present cosmetic concerns. Keloids occur from the overgrowth of scar tissue; symptoms will occur at a site of previous skin injury. They can also develop following the minor injuries that occur with body piercing.
Signs and symptoms
Symptoms include an area that is flesh-coloured, pink or red in colour, a lumpy or ridged area of skin, an area that continues to grow larger with scar tissue over time, itchy patch of skin. Keloid scars tend to be larger than the original wound itself; they may take weeks or months to fully develop.
“While keloid scars may be itchy, they are typically not harmful to your health. You may experience some discomfort or tenderness, or possible irritation from clothing or other forms of friction.
In rare instances, a person may experience keloid scarring on a significant amount of their body. When this occurs, the hardened, tight scar tissue may restrict your movements,” says Edwin Mugambagye, a dermatologist working with the Medplus clinic Remera.
Keloids are often more of a cosmetic concern than a health one. You may feel self-conscious if the keloid is very large or in a highly visible location, such as an earlobe or on the face. Sun exposure or tanning may discolor the scar tissue, making it slightly darker than your surrounding skin. This can make the keloid stand out even more than it already does. Keep the scar covered when you are in the sun to prevent discoloration.
Most skin injury types can contribute to keloid scarring and these include, acne scars, burns, chickenpox scars, ear piercing scratches, surgical cuts, vaccination sites, so on and so forth.
According to the U.S National Center for Biotechnology Information, keloid scarring is common in people between the ages of 10 and 20, and also among African Americans, Asians, and Hispanics. And they tend to have a genetic component, which means you are more likely to have keloids if one or both of your parents has them.
Keloids typically do not require medical attention, but you may want to contact your doctor if growth continues, develop additional symptoms, or you want to have the keloids surgically removed.
“While keloids are benign, uncontrolled growth may be a sign of skin cancer. After diagnosing keloid scarring with a visual examination, your doctor may want to perform a biopsy to rule out other conditions. This involves taking a small sample of tissue from the scarred area and analyzing it for cancerous cells,” explains Alfred Gatabarwa, a general practitioner with Abbey Family Clinic Remera.
The decision to treat a keloid can be a tricky one — keloid scarring is the result of the body’s attempt to repair itself. Removing the keloid may mean that the scar tissue only grows back again, sometimes larger than before.
“Examples of keloid treatments include; corticosteroid injections to reduce inflammation, moisturizing oils to keep the tissue soft, using pressure or silicone gel pads after injury, freezing the tissue to kill skin cells, laser treatments to reduce scar tissue, radiation to shrink keloids, surgery to remove the keloid,” Gatabarwa added.
These treatments can reduce or eliminate keloid scarring. However, keloids tend to shrink and become flatter over time even without treatment.