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A keloid is when scar tissue grows beyond the margins of the skin wound. Scar tissue is a part of the normal healing process. With keloids, the scar tissue grows in an uncontrolled manner even after the wound has been covered. The growth can continue for weeks or months.

A keloid can vary in size from one to several inches. While not harmful, keloids can be painful and irritating.

Keloids can occur anywhere but they are more common on:

  • Earlobes
  • Shoulders
  • Upper back
  • Chest
  • Back of scalp and neck


Keloids are more common in people with African American, Asian, or Hispanic ethnicity. They are also more likely to occur between in people between 10-30 years of age.

Factors that increase your chance of keloids include:

  • Deep skin wounds, such as those from infections, burns or surgical scars
  • Scars from acne, vaccinations, or chickenpox
  • Family history of keloids


Keloids often begin as small lumps at the site of a skin injury. They gradually grow beyond the edges of the wound.

For most people, the scar is the only symptom, but other symptoms can include pain, burning and itchiness.

Diagnosis & Treatment at UVA

To rule out skin disorders or tumors, your provider may order a biopsy. A skin specialist can confirm your diagnosis. A plastic surgeon may do the removal.

It’s rare for a keloid to go away on its own. If it doesn’t bother you, it won’t need treatment. A large or irritating keloid may be removed with surgery. However, most keloids will grow again after surgery.

To prevent a keloid from growing back, treatment options include:

Corticosteroid Injections

Your doctor will give these injections along with surgery. You will have to repeat these injections every 3-4 weeks for six months. Steroids can relieve itching and pain and slow the scar formation. For some, it may cause some shrinking of the keloid.

Radiation Therapy

Your provider may recommend radiation after surgery. This therapy can be successful at stopping regrowth. However, it is a limited option because it is toxic to healthy tissue.

Other Medications

Depending on the size and location of the keloid, you may need topical creams or injections. 

Keloid Prevention

To help reduce your chances of forming a keloid, take the following steps:

  • Avoid trauma to the skin.
  • Care for cuts or scrapes right away.
  • Avoid unnecessary cosmetic surgery.
  • Avoid tattoos and piercings.

Content was created using EBSCO’s Health Library. Edits to original content made by Rector and Visitors of the University of Virginia. This information is not a substitute for professional medical advice.