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Several treatment options can help remove or shrink keloids, bulbs of scar tissue that form on piercings. This includes procedures at the dermatologist’s office and home remedies. You may also be able to prevent a keloid with prompt action.
What are keloids?
Keloids are overgrowths of scar tissue caused by trauma to your skin. They’re common after ear piercings and can form on both the lobe and cartilage of your ear. Keloids can range in color from light pink to dark brown.
Keep reading to learn more about what causes keloids and how to get rid of them on your ear.
Getting your ears pierced might not feel like a serious injury, but that’s sometimes how your body sees it.
As wounds heal, fibrous scar tissue starts to replace old skin tissue. Sometimes your body makes too much scar tissue, leading to keloids. This extra tissue starts to spread out from the original wound, causing a bump or small mass that’s larger than the original piercing.
On the ear, keloids typically begin as small round bumps around the piercing site. Sometimes they develop quickly, but usually they appear several months after you pierce your ear. Your keloid may continue growing slowly for the next few months.
A keloid can form from any kind of injury to your skin. Your ears might have small injuries due to:
- surgical scars
- insect bites
While anyone can develop keloids, some people do seem to have a higher risk based on certain factors, such as:
Keloids are particularly hard to get rid of. Even when they’re successfully removed, they tend to reappear eventually. Most dermatologists recommend a combination of different treatments for long-lasting results.
Your doctor can surgically remove a keloid from your ear using a scalpel. However, this creates a new wound that will likely develop a keloid as well. When treated with surgery alone, keloids usually come back. That’s why doctors typically recommend other treatments, in addition to surgery, that prevent the keloid from coming back.
If you have surgery to remove an ear keloid, your doctor may recommend wearing a pressure earring after the procedure. These are earrings that place uniform pressure on part of your ear, which can help prevent a keloid from forming after surgery.
However, pressure earrings are also very uncomfortable for most people, and they need to be worn for 16 hours a day for 6 to 12 months.
Radiation treatment alone may reduce the size of a keloid. However, it’s usually used in conjunction with surgery.
There are also several nonsurgical treatment options you can try. While you might not be able to completely get rid of a keloid, many of these options can help to significantly shrink it.
Corticosteroids and other injections
Doctors can inject medications directly into your keloid to help shrink it, relieve symptoms, and make it softer. You’ll receive injections every three to four weeks until the keloid improves. This usually takes about four office visits.
According to the American Academy of Dermatology, about 50 to 80 percent of keloids shrink after treatment with injections. However, they also note many people experience a reoccurrence within five years.
Cryotherapy treatments freeze the keloid. They work best when combined with other treatments, especially steroid injections. Your doctor may recommend three or more cryotherapy treatments, either before or after receiving your series of steroid injections.
Laser treatments can reduce the size and fade the color of keloids. Like most other treatments, laser therapy is usually done in conjunction with another method.
A ligature is a surgical thread that’s tied around the base of larger keloids. Over time, the thread cuts into the keloid and causes it to fall off. You’ll need to have a new ligature tied on every three to four weeks until your keloid falls off.
Your doctor may prescribe a retinoid cream to help reduce the size and appearance of your keloid.
While there are no clinically proven home remedies that can completely remove keloids, there are a few treatments you can use to reduce their appearance.
One study found that an onion extract gel can reduce the height and symptoms of raised scars. However, it didn’t have much of an effect on the overall appearance of scars.
Keloids are hard to treat. If you’re prone to developing them, follow these tips to reduce your risk of developing a new one:
- If you feel the skin around a piercing start to thicken, you need to act quickly to prevent a keloid. Remove your earing and ask your doctor about wearing a pressure earring.
- If you’ve ever had an ear keloid, don’t pierce your ears again.
- If someone in your immediate family gets keloids, ask your dermatologist to do a test in a discreet area before you get any piercings, tattoos, or cosmetic surgery.
- If you know that you get keloids and you need surgery, be sure to inform your surgeon. They may be able to use special techniques to reduce your risk.
- Take excellent care of any new piercings or wounds. Keeping the wound clean can reduce your risk of scarring.
- Use a silicone patch or gel after getting any new piercings or wounds.
Keloids are hard to treat, so it’s best to seek out advice from your doctor. Most people with keloids, either on their ears or elsewhere, respond best to a combination of treatments.
If you know you tend to develop them, there are also steps you can take to try to prevent future keloids from forming. It’s best to consult a dermatologist, who may suggest a combination of several different treatments.