Lumps & Bumps – Common Skin Conditions: Sprouting Barnacles

Eleanor Kurtz, MD

But … barnacles grow on boats, right?  One of the many “age spots” that appear on adults has earned the nickname “barnacle” because of it’s characteristic “stuck on” appearance.

A seborrheic keratosis, often called a “seb K” or “SK” for short, is a benign skin growth that typically appears in patients over the age of 50. They are usually tan, brown or black in color with a bumpy or warty appearance and a slightly waxy feel.

They tend to occur on the face, trunk and extremities. They are not typically on the soles of the feet or palms of the hands. They have very clear edges where normal skin stops and the edge of the seborrheic keratosis begins, sticking up off the skin like a barnacle sticks up off the surface of a boat’s hull.

They may occur as a single growth or in multiples and occasionally get itchy or irritated from clothing or jewelry rubbing against them.  Most primary care physicians can identify an SK by simply examining it closely.

Multiple seborrheic keratoses on the back (source:

Typical stuck on, warty appearing seborrheic keratosis. (source:

While they are not cancerous, it’s a good idea to have your physician check any new skin growths you develop. Sometimes your physician may recommend removing part or all of an SK for testing to be certain of the diagnosis.

If your physician is certain of the diagnosis and you wish to have an SK removed, it can be treated either by freezing, burning, cutting or simply scraping the lesion with a scalpel. Much like a barnacle, they often pop scrape off quite easily.

About Dr. Eleanor Kurtz
Eleanor Kurtz, MD, of Bon Secours Medical Associates at Virginia Beach, is an internal medicine physician who earned her medical degree from The Ohio State University College of Medicine in Columbus, Ohio. She completed an internship, as well as a residency in internal medicine, at Eastern Virginia Medical School in Norfolk, Va. A diplomate of the American Board of Internal Medicine, Dr. Kurtz is a member of the American Medical Association and American College of Physicians. She has a special interest in wound care. Read more blog posts by Dr. Kurtz!

To schedule an appointment with Dr. Kurtz in Virginia Beach please call (757) 305-1797!

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