What Is Dermatosis Papulosa Nigra?

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  • Written By: Mary McMahon
  • Edited By: A. Joseph
  • Last Modified Date: 09 September 2019
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Dermatosis papulosa nigra is a benign skin condition that is common in dark-skinned women. People who have this condition develop small dark spots, especially around their faces, and might find them cosmetically distressing. This condition does not pose any health risks, although sometimes the papules might become inflamed and itchy. The best treatment is often no treatment, unless the patient experiences distress, in which case a doctor might be able to remove the growths.

In dermatosis papulosa nigra, the patient develops a series of keratoses, small keratinized growths on the surface of the skin. They can range in shape and size but generally are small and might be flat or stand out. The spots are darker than the surrounding skin and can become quite noticeable. Patients might develop the condition at any age, and although the growths usually concentrate around the face, they can appear elsewhere.

Skin changes can be a sign of concern, especially when they happen rapidly or are accompanied by itching or burning sensations. When a patient appears to have dermatosis papulosa nigra, a doctor might perform a thorough examination to confirm the diagnosis and make absolutely sure that the spots are benign. If there are any doubts, the doctor can take a skin scraping for a pathologist to examine. The doctor might also recommend simply removing a growth for examination; if it is malignant, the removal will already be taken care of.


There appears to be a genetic component to dermatosis papulosa nigra, because some families are more prone to it than others. For people who have a family history of the condition, it might help to advise doctors of this, because this can help narrow the diagnosis as quickly as possible. Dermatosis papulosa nigra is very common, but a doctor might have concerns about other skin issues if the patient doesn't seem to be a likely candidate for this condition.

It is possible to remove the spots, although the remaining skin might be marred and there is a risk that the outgrowth of keratin could recur. If a patient has concerns about dermatosis papulosa nigra spots, a doctor can evaluate them to determine whether they are treatable. They might be fully removable, but the patient can have some scabbing and scarring during recovery. Doctors often recommend leaving the growths in place, because removal can create a risk of infection, scarring and other issues. It might be safer to allow the growths to remain.


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