seborrheic keratosis

Seborrheic Keratosis (Senile warts): Complete Guide

Seborrheic Keratosis

Seborrheic Keratosis is not real warts (4) because they are not caused by viruses (1). Therefore they are also not contagious (2). However, seborrheic keratosis is widespread (3). Because they are benign (6), they do not necessarily have to be removed (5). Read all the important information about Seborrheic Keratosis: appearance, diagnosis, and treatment!

ICD codes for this condition is L82

seborrheic keratosis

How to recognize Seborrheic Keratosis

Seborrheic Keratosis (Verrucae seborrhoicae) are wart-like, roundish to oval skin nodules. They are usually small . Only rarely they become as large as the palm of your hand. Seborrheic Keratosis develop individually or in plural in many people at an advanced age (occasionally also in young adults). They develop mainly on the face, on the upper body (chest and back), on the back of the hands and on the front of the arms and legs. In contrast, warts on the palms of the hands and soles of the feet are never seborrheic keratosis, but other types of warts.

Note: The medically correct technical term for senile warts or age warts is seborrheic keratosis and is the one we will utilize in our articles and journals.

Seborrheic keratosis is sharply defined and more or less raised. Their color is variable: there are both lighter specimens and brownish to almost black seborrheic keratosis. Their surface is dull, felted and in an advanced state fissured. They feel greasy/tallowy.

Because this condition as a whole can look so variable, experts distinguish between different types of appearance. Here are a few examples:

  • Acanthotic: broad-based, more strongly pigmented, hemispherical seborrheic “warts”, which usually occurs individually. Often with yellowish-brown horn pearls.
  • Verrucous (hyperkeratotic): light grey skin tumours, often as large as cherries and with a wart-like surface.
  • Stucco keratoses: flat, unpigmented, lentil-sized papules with a rough, whitish surface on the lower legs, back of the foot, forearm extensor sides and back of the hand.
  • Stalked: This type is found around the eyes and in the body folds.
  • Irritated: reddened, scaly, painful seborrheic keratosis after mechanical irritation (e.g. by tight-fitting clothing).


The cause of this condition is still unclear. However, the small, benign skin tumours are not caused by viruses like real warts (verrucae). They are therefore not contagious.

How to remove seborrheic keratosis

Seborrheic “warts” does not necessarily have to be removed – they are harmless and usually do not cause any complaints.

Depending on their location, however, the verrucas may be exposed to mechanical irritation – for example by clothing that rubs against them. In this case, it may be advisable to see a doctor have genital warts removed. The same applies if the affected person finds seborrheic warts cosmetically disturbing.

It is also necessary to remove the skin changes if the diagnosis is unclear – so the doctor is not sure whether they are harmless seborrheic “warts” or skin cancer.

Removing seborrheic keratosis: different methods

There are different ways to treat seborrheic “warts”: They are often removed with a special medical instrument (sharp spoon, curette). A seborrheic wart can also be removed with a scalpel or laser. In the case of seborrhoeic stalked keratosis, the “skin appendage” can be removed with a so-called electrical snare.

Removing seborrheic keratosis: What is not possible

Some people would like to remove their seborrheic “warts” themselves by treating them externally like real warts – for example with ointments, active ingredient patches, or solutions that dissolve the horny layer (keratolytic preparations). However, this does not work for this condition. So if you want to get rid of these warts of seborrheic origin, you need to see a doctor.

Difference Between Seborrheic Keratosis And Other Conditions

Malignant skin tumours: A doctor can usually easily detect seborrheic keratosis by their appearance. However, there are skin changes that resemble this disease and must be excluded in unclear cases. These include above all malignant skin tumours such as black skin cancer (malignant melanoma). To determine whether it is a seborrhoeic wart or a malignant skin tumour, the doctor takes a tissue sample. It is examined in the laboratory for fine tissue.

Preliminary stages of skin cancer: A preliminary stage of skin cancer is actinic keratosis. This is the term used to describe persistent reddened, rough skin changes caused by excessive exposure to sunlight over a long period of time. It can be confused with this condition.

Fibroma: A fibroma is a benign, harmless growth of connective tissue that can resemble this disease.

Scientific standards

This text complies with the requirements of medical literature, medical guidelines and current studies and has been reviewed by medical experts.



  • Plewig, G. et al.: Braun-Falco’s Dermatology, Venerology and Allergology, Springer-Verlag, 7th edition, 2018
  • Plötz, S.G. et al.: Frequent skin tumors in practice, Springer-Verlag, 2011
  • Altmeyer, P. & Hoffmann, K.: Basic knowledge dermatology, W3L-Verlag, 2006
  • Netter, F.H.: Dermatology, Georg Thieme Verlag, 2nd edition, 2010
  • Sterry, W. et al: Checklist Dermatology, Georg Thieme Verlag, 7th edition, 2014


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