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Toad Spots: A Minor Affliction of Old Age

Posted Jan 04 2012 8:30am

category_bug_journal2.gif As long as we are already talking about non-life threatening medical conditions of old age this week ( see Hair Thinning story ), why not follow up today with another which Darlene Costner identified in yesterday's comments:

”Now write about those ugly brown mole-like spots that start cropping up all over the body. I am getting so many I think I am turning into a toad.”

No kidding, Darlene, and the toad comparison is exactly right. I've had more than a dozen removed over the years and I currently have a new crop – one on my back, three on my left torso, a small one on my upper chest – waiting to be attended to. But there is no hurry.

SeborrheicKeratosis150 They are called seborrheic keratoses (singular: keratosis), they have no known cause and are never malignant. This example is dark brown but color can range from white to light tan through black. They grow slowly sometimes in groups, tend to look like they are pasted onto the skin and cannot be prevented.

Although they are known to show up starting in teen years and throughout life, they are most often seen on elders and generally increase in number with age. The Mayo Clinic website, which has an informative section on these toad spots, notes:

”Seborrheic keratoses are normally painless and require no treatment. You may decide, however, to have them removed if they become irritated by clothing or for cosmetic reasons.”

Yes – like the one many years ago that grew on my forehead near the hairline along with another on the top center of my head. Although seborrheic keratoses are not contagious, those two prevented me from seeing the hair cutter/stylist until I had them removed.

The several methods of removal are simple; it takes only a few moments in a physician's office.

Because they are removed primarily for cosmetic reasons, private insurance and Medicare usually do not pay for the procedures although they may if your seborrheic keratoses are removed for such medical reasons as intense itching, pain, inflammation, bleeding and infection. These symptoms are rare.

Recurring basal cell carcinomas (carcinomae?) and a whole lot of seborrheic keratoses have left me well versed in which are the harmless toad spots and those that should be seen quickly by a medical professional. Unless you are equally experienced, any new skin growth should be checked by your physician as soon as possible.

Overall, this is hardly a serious health issue – just an unsightly annoyance. Still, it doesn't seem quite fair, does it, to turn so many of us into toads in our old age.

At The Elder Storytelling Place today, Terry Hamburg: Tails in Black and White

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