Understanding the Costs of Seborrheic Keratosis Removal

May 21, 2024

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Seborrheic keratosis is a common, non-cancerous skin growth that often appears in older adults. These growths are usually brown, black or light tan and have a waxy, scaly and slightly raised appearance.[1] They can develop anywhere on the body except the palms and soles of the feet.

While seborrheic keratoses are harmless, many people choose to have them removed for cosmetic reasons or if they become irritated. If you’re considering seborrheic keratosis removal, it’s important to understand your treatment options and the associated costs.

What Causes Seborrheic Keratosis?

The exact cause of seborrheic keratosis is unknown, but there seems to be a genetic component, as they often run in families.[3] Other potential risk factors include:

  • Age – they are more common in people over 50
  • Sun exposure
  • Hormonal changes, such as during pregnancy

Although they may resemble skin cancer, seborrheic keratoses are benign. However, it’s always a good idea to have any new skin growths evaluated by a dermatologist to rule out cancer or other skin conditions.

Symptoms of Seborrheic Keratosis

Seborrheic keratoses usually have the following characteristics:[3]

  • Waxy, scaly and slightly raised appearance
  • Round or oval shape
  • Range in color from light tan to brown or black
  • Range in size from very small to over 1 inch across
  • May appear in clusters
  • Rarely painful but can itch or become irritated

If a growth changes in color, shape or size, starts to bleed, or doesn’t heal, see a dermatologist promptly as these could be signs of skin cancer.

Seborrheic Keratosis Treatment Options

While treatment isn’t medically necessary for seborrheic keratosis, many people opt to have them removed. Seborrheic keratosis removal is a cosmetic procedure, so it’s not typically covered by insurance unless the growth is irritated, bleeding or interfering with vision or movement.[16]

There are several methods for removing seborrheic keratoses. The best option for you will depend on factors like the size, location and thickness of the growth. Your dermatologist can recommend the most appropriate treatment.

Cryotherapy

Cryotherapy, also known as cryosurgery, is one of the most common methods for seborrheic keratosis removal. The dermatologist applies liquid nitrogen to the growth with a cotton swab or spray to freeze and destroy the cells.[7]

After cryotherapy, the growth will blister and scab over before falling off, usually within a few days. The treated area may be lighter in color than the surrounding skin. In people with darker skin tones, there is a risk of permanent loss of pigment.[8]

Electrocautery and Curettage

With electrocautery, the dermatologist uses a small probe to deliver an electric current that burns off the growth. Curettage involves scraping off the growth with a scoop-shaped surgical instrument. The two procedures are often combined and may require stitches.[7]

Electrocautery and curettage can be effective for thicker growths but may leave a scar. There is also a risk of hyperpigmentation, especially in people with darker skin.[18]

Shave Excision

For thinner or flat seborrheic keratoses, the dermatologist may perform a shave excision. After numbing the area, the doctor uses a small blade to shave off the growth. The removed tissue can then be sent to a lab to confirm the diagnosis.[2]

Shave excision usually heals quickly with minimal scarring. However, as with other surgical methods, there is a risk of pigment changes in the treated area.

Laser Therapy

Seborrheic keratosis laser treatment uses an intense beam of light to selectively destroy the pigmented cells. It can be an effective option, especially for multiple growths, with less risk of scarring compared to other methods.[1]

Types of lasers for seborrheic keratosis include:

  • CO2 laser – an ablative laser that vaporizes water in the cells
  • Erbium:YAG laser – another ablative laser that may cause less post-treatment redness
  • Q-switched lasers – non-ablative lasers that target pigment

Your dermatologist can advise on the best laser for seborrheic keratosis based on your skin type and the characteristics of the growth. Multiple treatments may be needed for complete removal.

After laser removal for seborrheic keratosis, the treated area will form a scab that falls off over several days as the skin heals. Redness, swelling and itching are common side effects. Rarely, laser treatment can cause blistering, crusting, scarring or changes in skin pigment.[1]

Topical Treatments

Topical creams and gels are a non-surgical option for seborrheic keratosis removal, although they are not as widely used as surgical methods. Some topical treatments that have shown promise include:[7]

  • Tazarotene cream
  • Imiquimod cream
  • Vitamin D analogs like calcipotriol
  • Diclofenac gel
  • Potassium dobesilate cream
  • Hydrogen peroxide 40% solution (Eskata)

In particular, the hydrogen peroxide-based treatment Eskata was the first FDA-approved topical for seborrheic keratosis. In clinical trials, Eskata for seborrheic keratosis completely cleared 4 out of 10 growths after two treatments.[15]

However, Eskata was recently withdrawn from the market by the manufacturer.[15] If you’re interested in a topical treatment, talk to your dermatologist about other hydrogen peroxide for seborrheic keratosis options or alternative topical medications.

Topical treatments may take longer to work than surgical methods and are best for thinner growths. They can cause side effects like redness, scaling, itching, and irritation. Seborrheic keratosis treatment at home with over-the-counter products is not recommended as they are unlikely to be effective and could cause complications.

Seborrheic Keratosis Removal Cost

The cost for seborrheic keratosis removal varies depending on the treatment method, the size and number of growths, and the provider. Since it’s considered a cosmetic procedure, seborrheic keratosis removal is usually not covered by insurance, Medicare or Medicaid unless the growth is symptomatic.[9]

Here are some typical seborrheic keratosis removal prices based on the information provided in the search results:

TreatmentCost
Cryotherapy$100 – $500 per session
Shave excision$100 – $400 per growth
Electrocautery & curettage$100 – $500 per growth
Laser seborrheic keratosis removal$200 – $1500 per session
Eskata (no longer available)$200 – $250 per application

Keep in mind these are general price ranges. The exact seborrheic keratosis removal cost can only be determined after a consultation with a dermatologist. Factors that influence the price include:

  • Geographic location and provider fees
  • Size, location and number of growths
  • Type of anesthesia or sedation needed
  • Complexity of the procedure
  • Additional costs like lab fees

Laser Treatment for Seborrheic Keratosis Cost

Laser treatment for seborrheic keratosis tends to be more expensive than other methods, ranging from a few hundred to over a thousand dollars per session. The cost of laser seborrheic keratosis removal depends on the specific type of laser used and the number of treatments needed for clearance.

According to the American Society of Plastic Surgeons, the average cost for laser skin resurfacing was $2509 per session in 2020. However, a seborrheic keratosis laser treatment session may cost less since it targets a smaller, more superficial area compared to full facial resurfacing.

Some practices offer package pricing for patients getting laser removal of multiple seborrheic keratoses. For example, they may charge a base price for the first few lesions plus a reduced fee for each additional growth treated.

To get a better idea of seborrheic keratosis laser treatment cost, look for a “seborrheic keratosis laser treatment near me” and schedule a consultation. The dermatologist can give you a personalized quote after assessing your growths.

Does Insurance Cover Seborrheic Keratosis Removal?

In most cases, seborrheic keratosis removal is not covered by insurance when done for cosmetic reasons. Insurance companies consider it elective and not medically necessary.[5]

However, if the growth is irritated, bleeding, itchy or infected, insurance may cover the cost of seborrheic keratosis removal. The lesion has to be symptomatic and interfering with your health or daily activities to be eligible for coverage.[16]

For example, Medicare will pay for seborrheic keratosis removal if the growth is:

  • Bleeding
  • Painful
  • Inflamed or infected
  • Restricting vision or movement

If your seborrheic keratosis is symptomatic, your dermatologist can document the medical necessity and submit the claim to your insurance. You may need to provide photos or other records showing the growth is problematic.

Even with insurance coverage, you may owe a copay, coinsurance or deductible payment for the seborrheic keratosis removal procedure. Check your plan benefits or contact your insurer to understand your costs.

Financing Options

If your insurance doesn’t cover seborrheic keratosis removal and the out-of-pocket cost is too high, financing may make the procedure more affordable. Many dermatology and plastic surgery practices partner with medical financing companies to offer payment plans for cosmetic treatments.

Some popular medical financing options include:

  • CareCredit
  • Alphaeon Credit
  • Prosper Healthcare Lending
  • United Medical Credit

These plans allow you to spread the cost of seborrheic keratosis removal over time with monthly payments. Some offer no-interest promotional periods if you pay off the balance within a certain timeframe.

Qualifying for medical financing usually requires a credit check. The interest rate and terms you receive depend on your credit score and history. Be sure to read the fine print and understand all the fees involved before signing up.

Another way to manage the price of seborrheic keratosis removal is to use a health savings account (HSA) or flexible spending account (FSA) if you have one. These accounts let you set aside pre-tax dollars for medical expenses, including some elective procedures.

However, you may need a Letter of Medical Necessity from your provider for seborrheic keratosis removal to qualify for HSA/FSA reimbursement. The letter should detail how the growths are adversely impacting your health.

Preparing for Seborrheic Keratosis Removal

If you’re planning to have a seborrheic keratosis removed, there are a few things you can do to prepare and ensure the best outcome:

Choose a Qualified Provider

It’s important to have seborrheic keratosis removal done by a board-certified dermatologist or plastic surgeon with experience in these procedures. They can properly diagnose your growths, recommend the most appropriate treatment, and minimize risks of scarring or pigment changes.

Be wary of spas, salons or other providers offering discount seborrheic keratosis removal without medical supervision. Improper technique can lead to infection, scarring or other complications.

During your seborrheic keratosis treatment consultation, the doctor will examine your growths and review your medical history. They may take photos for your record. This is a good time to ask questions about the procedure, side effects, downtime and costs.

The provider should clearly explain the risks, benefits and expected outcome of seborrheic keratosis removal. They may have you sign an informed consent document confirming you understand and accept the risks.

Discuss Your Medical History

Certain medical conditions and medications can affect the safety and results of seborrheic keratosis removal. Be sure to tell your doctor if you have:

  • Diabetes
  • Bleeding disorders
  • Immune system disorders
  • Active skin infections
  • Allergies to anesthetics or antibiotics
  • Used isotretinoin for acne in the past year

Also list all the prescription and over-the-counter medications, vitamins and supplements you take. Some products like aspirin, ibuprofen, vitamin E and herbal supplements can increase bleeding risk and may need to be stopped before the procedure.

Stop Smoking

If you smoke, try to quit or at least stop smoking for a few weeks before and after seborrheic keratosis removal. Smoking impairs wound healing and increases the risk of scarring and infection.

Smoking cessation resources like nicotine replacement therapy, prescription medications and support groups can help you quit. Talk to your primary care doctor about the best strategies for you.

Avoid Sun Exposure

Too much sun exposure can make seborrheic keratoses more prominent and harder to treat. It can also increase the risk of post-treatment pigment changes, especially in darker skin tones.

In the weeks before seborrheic keratosis removal, protect your skin from the sun by:

  • Wearing a broad-spectrum SPF 30+ sunscreen daily
  • Covering up with clothing, hats and sunglasses
  • Avoiding peak sun hours between 10am-4pm
  • Not using tanning beds

If you have a tan, let it fade completely before having the growths removed. A tan can make it harder for the doctor to accurately assess your lesions.

Arrange for Recovery Time

While seborrheic keratosis removal is usually a quick, in-office procedure, you may need to take it easy for a few days afterward. Arrange to take some time off work or other activities, especially if you’re having multiple growths treated.

Most people can resume normal activities within a day of cryotherapy, shave excision or laser treatment. More extensive electrosurgery and curettage may require a few days of downtime.

Your doctor will give you specific instructions for caring for the treated areas and watching for any problems. Following these directions carefully will help you heal faster and reduce the risk of scarring or infection.

Seborrheic Keratosis Removal Aftercare

Proper post-procedure care is important for getting the best cosmetic results after seborrheic keratosis removal. Your doctor will explain how to look after the treated areas, but here are some general tips:

Keep the Area Clean and Dry

Gently clean the treated areas with mild soap and water as directed by your doctor. Pat the skin dry; don’t rub or pick at any scabs or peeling skin. Applying a thin layer of petroleum jelly can help keep the skin moist and prevent scabbing.

Avoid swimming, hot tubs, and baths until the skin has healed, usually within 1-2 weeks. Showers are okay after the first 24 hours. Don’t apply any skincare products, makeup, or sunscreen to the treated areas unless approved by your doctor.

Manage Pain and Swelling

It’s normal to have some pain, swelling, redness and itching after seborrheic keratosis removal. These side effects are usually mild and go away within a few days. You can manage discomfort by:

  • Taking acetaminophen (Tylenol) for pain
  • Applying a cold compress for 10-15 minutes at a time
  • Sleeping with your head elevated on an extra pillow
  • Wearing loose, soft clothing that doesn’t rub the treated areas

Avoid aspirin, ibuprofen, naproxen and other NSAIDs for the first few days as they can increase the risk of bleeding. If you have severe pain or swelling, contact your doctor promptly.

Protect Your Skin From the Sun

The treated areas will be more sensitive to sun exposure after seborrheic keratosis removal. Too much sun can cause permanent pigment changes, so it’s important to protect your skin:

  • Cover the areas with clothing or a bandage when outdoors
  • Wear a wide-brimmed hat to shade your face and neck
  • Once healed, apply a broad-spectrum SPF 30+ sunscreen daily
  • Avoid direct sun exposure between 10am-4pm

Continue practicing sun protection even after you’ve healed to prevent new seborrheic keratoses from developing and reduce your risk of skin cancer.

Don’t Smoke

Smoking slows down healing, so try not to smoke for at least a few weeks after the procedure. Smoking can cause increased scarring, skin discoloration, and a longer recovery time.

Follow Up With Your Doctor

Schedule a follow-up appointment with your dermatologist as directed to monitor your healing. They’ll make sure the treated areas are healing properly and address any concerns you have.

Most seborrheic keratoses don’t grow back after removal, but it’s possible to develop new ones elsewhere. See your dermatologist for a skin exam at least once a year so any new growths can be identified and treated early.

When to See a Doctor

While mild redness, swelling and scabbing are expected after seborrheic keratosis removal, contact your doctor if you experience:

  • Severe or worsening pain
  • Excessive bleeding or pus drainage
  • Fever or chills
  • Spreading redness or warmth around the treated areas
  • Slow healing or worsening appearance of the treated areas

These could be signs of an infection or other complication that requires prompt medical treatment. Don’t hesitate to call your doctor with any concerns during the healing process.

Summary

  • Seborrheic keratoses are common non-cancerous skin growths that can be removed for cosmetic reasons or if they become irritated.
  • Treatment options include cryotherapy, shave excision, electrocautery and curettage, and laser therapy. The best method depends on the size, location and thickness of the growth.
  • Seborrheic keratosis removal costs vary based on the treatment type, provider, and number and size of growths. The price can range from $100 to over $1000 per session.
  • Insurance usually doesn’t cover seborrheic keratosis removal unless the lesion is symptomatic. Financing options like medical credit cards and payment plans can make the procedure more affordable.
  • To prepare for seborrheic keratosis removal, choose a board-certified dermatologist, discuss your medical history, stop smoking, avoid sun exposure, and arrange for recovery time.
  • After the procedure, keep the treated areas clean and dry, manage pain and swelling, protect your skin from the sun, and follow up with your doctor as directed.
  • See your doctor promptly if you have signs of infection like severe pain, bleeding, pus, fever, or spreading redness after seborrheic keratosis removal.

While seborrheic keratoses are harmless, they can be unsightly or uncomfortable. If you’re bothered by these growths, talk to a dermatologist about your seborrheic keratosis removal options. With the right treatment and aftercare, you can achieve a clearer, smoother complexion.

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