Seeking understanding – and a cure – for keloids

By Camille Madison

Large white scars cover the back and earlobe of Livhuwani Lithole.

For over 30 years Lithole has dealt with keloids, a condition that resulted in low self-esteem. She is among an estimated 5 to 16 percent of blacks who have the skin condition.

There are many African-Americans and Africans who consult doctors but still do not receive logical explanations about their afflictions. Current science is inexact and thin.

Health experts on the Hampton University Campus have strived to help with research.

Many questions are asked of doctors such as what keloids are, what are the signs and if there is a cure. The new Hampton University Skin of Color Research Institute is undergoing in-depth research to improve the understanding and findings of cures of skin conditions that affect people of color.

According to Ernst Reichenberger, Ph.D., keloids are scars that overgrow the stem of the bone. Keloids can grow for years and can also be inherited. It is commonly located on the chest, shoulders, earlobes and back. This condition is described as firm, shiny and an enlarged scar that varies from the pink to brown.

As research is being done, there are support groups online that provide answers based on people who share this condition experience. MdJunction.com provides various support groups for different health- related issues. In the keloid support group, people share personal stories, ask questions for professionals and provide general support for others.

Lithole resides in South Africa and is a user on this website. She shared her personal experience with keloids.

“At one stage the one below my ear extended to the back and it grew to a size of a fist,” she said. I’ve always had a weave or braids to hide it. I couldn’t stand the stares from people. It was operated more than five times [and it] made it grow bigger and bigger.”

According to the HUSCRI website, the scar occurs as a result from trauma and injury to the skin. On Sept. 13, a lecture on Hampton’s campus was given by Reichenberger on “A genetic approach to keloid scarring.” The lecture introduced the HU community to HUSCRI and the skin condition that has gone through 30 to 40 years of research.

The recently opened facility is focusing on finding a better understanding for various skin conditions. Cases of keloid, central cicatricial alopecia [CCA] and post-inflammatory hyper pigmentation are among the many skin disorders doctors are researching.

Dr. Cevle Androas-Selim, director of the administrative core for HUSCRI, said, “Keloid research is not in progress as of yet at HUSCRI. We hope to engage in keloid research in the future.”

The Skin of Color center on Tyler Street is part of Hampton University research endeavors. HUSCRI is aiming to bring in some of Hampton students to join in on the many studies conducted.

There are also Hampton students that suffer from this condition and hope that HUSCRI will be able to provide assistance.

“I have one keloid on my side from a cut while playing football,” said James Flowers of Fort Washington, Md. “I always had questions as to why I keloid with that scar and not others. It’s great that there is an institute pertained to help African-Americans fight skin conditions,” said Flowers, a junior electrical engineering major.

Doctors in South Africa have yet to find a solution for Lithole and her younger son, who has inherited keloids.

“I’m now using some scar reduction creams from the U.S. and I apply [the] same to my baby as well,” said Lithole. [However], the cream does not last long, it is expensive and the medical aid does not pay for keloids treatments.”

The writer is a junior at the Scripps Howard School of Journalism and Communications

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