Keloid on a Tattoo

Young Hispanic woman with tattoos
Tattoos may increase the risk of keloids. (Image: Trinette Reed/Blend Images/Getty Images)

Keloids are a type of scar that form a growth of fleshy tissue that protrudes from the skin. According to the American Osteopathic College of Dermatology, they form when connective tissues called fibroblasts and skin cells over-multiply, creating extra tissue. Keloids are often hereditary, and people with darker skin tones are more at risk. If you are at risk of keloids, you might develop one from skin damage caused by lifestyle choices like tattoos, notes the National Health Service (NHS) website.

Identification

The first thing you need to do is identify whether your raised scar is a keloid or a hypertrophic scar. Hypertrophics are more common than keloids, as people of all skin colors can develop them. A hypertrophic will not grow as large as a keloid and is also much easier to remove. It will actually flatten on its own eventually, notes AOCD.

Prevention

If you know you are prone to keloid development and have just had a tattoo, you can take precautions to prevent one from developing. Once the tattoo is a month old, you can use silicone gel pads as a pressure dressing on the site and leave them on 24 hours a day. The NHS website notes that there is not much evidence that this works, however, and so it recommends steroid-impregnated tape, applied 12 hours a day, as an alternative.

Reduction

Due to the high possibility of keloids regrowing, especially in those with a family history, a slow reduction may be the best method for you. DermNetNZ notes that cryosurgery uses a spray or cotton swab application of liquid nitrogen. This breaks down the tissue fibers. Combined with monthly injections of the hormone cortisone, a keloid may completely dissolve within six months, notes AOCD.

Removal

There are several techniques available to stop regrowth after surgical removal of the keloid from the tattoo. Orthovoltage or electron beam radiation, which penetrates shallowly, applied to the scar site has been shown to stop regrowth in 85 percent of patients. Injections of cortisone and alpha-interferon drugs directly into the site have also been successful at stopping regrowth.

Considerations

The treatment of keloids is very difficult and regrowth is common, notes The NHS website. If you have a past history of keloids or they run in your family, it is best to avoid tattoos and jewelry piercings. Consult your doctor for diagnosis of any raised scars you have. Keloids are benign tumors and cannot turn cancerous, notes AOCD.

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