Seborrheic Keratosis (Senile warts)

Medically reviewed by The Dermatologists and written by Dr. Alexander Börve

Very Common
More than 3 million US cases per year

  • Requires medical diagnosis
  • Symptoms: Waxy warts
  • Color: Typically tanned or brown
  • Location: Anywhere on the skin
  • Treatment: No treatment necessary; scraping, freezing treatment, curettage, cryotherapy

ICD-10: L82.1
ICD-9: 702.19

Seborrheic keratosis, also called senile warts, is a very common skin condition marked by light brown, tan brown, dark brown, black and variably pigmented spots. The warts are slightly raised with a clear edge and waxy. They are often found in large numbers.

It has a slow growth rate, and is more commonly found with increasing age. Some may have senile warts in their thirties, but the chance of having senile warts increases with age. They can be large and easily visible but are harmless and not contagious.

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The warts can become inflamed, which makes it difficult to distinguish from melanoma. Reassuringly, they often share similar features to the other seborrhoeic keratoses on the body. Any lesion presumed to be seborrhoeic keratosis that looks different from every other seborrhoeic keratosis on your body should be checked by your doctor or dermatologist. Seborrheic keratoses have a waxy, “pasted-on-the-skin” look. Some look like a dab of warm, brown candle wax on the skin. Others may resemble a barnacle sticking to a ship.

They are mostly hereditary and not caused by sun exposure. Sometimes they may erupt during pregnancy, following hormone replacement therapy or as a result of other medical problems.

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What can I do?

Since these warts are harmless, they most often do not need treatment or care.


Should I seek medical care?

Since the senile warts do not develop into cancer, treatment is not necessary. However, if the wart changes, bleeds or becomes infected, you should seek help from a healthcare provider. Sometimes a seborrheic keratosis can look like a skin cancer. A dermatologist can remove the wart and examine it with microscope. This is the only way to tell for sure whether a growth is skin cancer. If you are not sure if the affected area is suffering from senile warts, you should let a doctor assess what it is by looking at the skin lesion or a skin sample.

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If you suffer from spots and think that they are unsightly, a doctor can easily remove them by scraping or freezing treatment. Curettage and cryotherapy have been successful in removing seborrheic keratosis.



American Academy of Dermatology. Available at:

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