Keloid (key-loids) is an overgrowth of scar tissue. This overgrowth commonly occurs on the earlobes, cheeks, jawline, chest, and shoulders. They occur when there is a certain injury to the skin. This injury triggers an abnormal healing process in which the scar tissues grow excessively. Consequentially, the scar tissue develops into raised fibrous nodules that develop outside the original location of the injury.
Keloids are made up of collagen. The injury on the skin triggers the production of collagen. They continue to grow as the body does not stop the collagen production. As a result, the keloid appears resembling a tumor.
Symptoms their formation include:
- Pain and itchiness on the point of injury
- Changes in skin color and texture. The skin becomes pink, or dark in color.
- Swelling on the area around the injury.
What causes keloids on ears?
The occurrence of keloid scars on the ears, or any other part of the body, is often as a result of a skin injury. In most instances, they are as a result of an ear piercing. The piercing triggers an abnormal stimulation of collagen build-up leading to their appearance. They can also form due to:
- Any form of trauma.
- Foreign-body reactions
- Endocrine dysfunction
There are people with a genetic predisposition to develop them. However, the underlying genetics of this condition are not well understood. Some people exhibit a mild form of this disorder. There are those with a moderate form (smaller in size). There are others who exhibit a severe form of keloids.
Risk factors and susceptibility of developing them
Ear keloids or those anywhere can be a source of emotional distress. They can cause significant psycho-social harm to the individual. There are people who are likely to develop them. They include African Americans, Asians, and Hispanic People. They are the most common condition among adult black patients in the UK. It is also prevalent among ethnic Chinese people in Asia (1). The condition can affect people of all ages. However, their development tends to occur after puberty.
If I have a parent with keloids, am I likely to have them?
Although most keloid cases are sporadic, some cases are familial. Medical research has noted that there may be a hereditary component in their formation. For instance, in a study conducted by Alexander G. Marneros; James E. C. Norris, MD; Bjorn R. Olsen, MD, Ph.D.; et al, out of the 341 families observed, 96 displayed keloids. There are reports of genetic susceptibility especially from patients who come from families with a history of having them. However, there is a lack of substantial evidence supporting a difference in the occurrence their occurrence based on sex (gender).
Are there syndromes that associated with their formation?
In most instances, ear keloids are triggered by ear piercings or any injury to the ear. However, there are some cases of formation due to certain syndromes. The medical conditions associated with keloid formation include Rubenstein-taybi and Goeminne Syndrome.
What treatment options to go for
Keloids are difficult to treat. In most cases, prevention is better searching for a cure. If you suspect that you are susceptible to them, then you should avoid ear piercings or any trauma or injury to the skin. The treatment options available may not work for everyone.
For instance, surgical excision is the most common approach to treating keloids. Sadly, surgery accounts for 55% recurrence rate in patients who have them. A surgical procedure may trigger the recurrence of the condition leading to more frustrations. It is advisable to seek medical advice on which option would best suit you.
There are instances where combination therapy is the best approach. Here, the medical practitioner may recommend surgical excision combined with intra-lesional steroids, radiotherapy, pressure therapy, or silicon application. Intra-lesional steroids can be administered after a surgery to prevent the reoccurrence.
Cryotherapy, on the other hand, involves freezing the scar to prevent them from reoccurring. Laser treatment can also be recommended as a treatment option.
In most instance, multiple treatment options are combined to ensure high efficiency in treatment.
Are there home remedies?
Over the years, there have been numerous DIY techniques tried out with the aim of eliminating keloids. One of these techniques is the ear banding technique. Here, the patient uses a tight elastic band to apply pressure to the affected area.
The science behind this technique is that the pressure will help reduce the blood flow to the keloid. However, this technique is not effective, and there are no reported home remedies that have been proven to work.
Ear keloids are a challenge to treat. However, patients may benefit from other immediate treatment options after surgery.
For example, the post-surgery radiation can reduce the reoccurrence by 10-15%. Recently, the application of liquid nitrogen to freeze keloids has been shown to significantly reduce the rate of reoccurrence.
It is important for you to seek medical advice on the best approach that will work for you, or your loved one.
- M. Hossein Tirgan, Atlas of Ear Keloids,
- Fred F. Ferri. Ferri’s Clinical Advisor 2013: 5 Books in 1, Elsevier Health Sciences, 2012