Keloid - Symptoms

How do keloid scars develop?

Keloid typically starts to develop about three months after the original skin damage although it can take up to a year. The first thing you will probably notice is that rubbery scar tissue starts growing beyond the borders of the original damage. It may become tender, itchy, and painful or produce a burning sensation. Sometimes keloid develops without any apparent skin injury, although most people can identify a cause. The common areas are the breastbone (sternum), shoulder, earlobe and cheek. Keloid growing over a joint can restrict movement. In time, the original red colour changes to brown or becomes pale.

Growth continues for a few weeks to a few months. The growth is usually slow but occasionally there is rapid enlargement over a few months. Once they stop growing most keloid scars remain the same size or get smaller.

  • Keloid scars are an overgrowth of skin after a cut or injury.
  • Instead of the skin healing normally, it goes into 'overdrive' and heals 'too much'.
  • They start very small and grow slowly, over many months.
  • There can be a gap of a month or two between the original injury and the keloid scar starting.
  • Typical areas they develop are:
    • Behind the ears after ear piercing.
    • On the breastbone after chickenpox, acne, or an injury.
    • On the side of the shoulder (deltoid) after a vaccination.
  • They can also occur after surgery, done by doctors - for example, after ear reduction surgery (where there is a scar behind the ears) or for removal of a suspicious skin growth.

What do keloid scars feel like?

  • They are usually smooth, slightly shiny, firm skin growths.
  • When they are growing they can feel itchy, prickly or sore.
  • Once they have stopped growing they are not usually painful.

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Dr Oliver Starr
Peer Reviewer:
Dr Laurence Knott
Document ID:
13624 (v3)
Last Checked:
11 May 2017
Next Review:
29 June 2020

Disclaimer: This article is for information only and should not be used for the diagnosis or treatment of medical conditions. Patient Platform Limited has used all reasonable care in compiling the information but make no warranty as to its accuracy. Consult a doctor or other health care professional for diagnosis and treatment of medical conditions. For details see our conditions.