Most adults have a variety of lesions on their skin—from bumps to spots, skin tags, cysts, and warts. Most are nothing to worry about, like dermatofibromas, which typically appear on the arms and legs.
Skin-colored, pink, or brown, these firm nodules feel like marbles and are usually between a tenth of an inch and a half inch in size (although they can sometimes grow to over an inch). Dermatofibromas may “dimple” when pinched, and they feel like they are attached to underlying tissue when you try to move them. They usually don’t cause any symptoms, but they can sometimes be itchy. They can develop after an insect bite or injury to the area in question, or they can simply appear for no apparent reason.
Most dermatofibromas don’t need to be removed unless they are inflamed, itchy, or painful, says Lauren Ploch, M.D., a Georgia dermatologist and spokesperson for the American Academy of Dermatology.
If that’s the case, removal will often be covered by health insurance for biopsy to ensure that the lesion is benign. But insurance will not usually cover removal for purely cosmetic reasons, Ploch says.
The typical treatment for a dermatofibroma is for a dermatologist to cut it off, but that may leave a scar that is more unsightly than the lesion itself (especially if the dermatofibroma is on the leg).
Another option is freezing with liquid nitrogen (called cryotherapy), which can flatten or destroy the lesion; this procedure is often used for dermatofibromas that stick out from the skin and can catch on clothing and become irritated.
The liquid nitrogen is typically applied directly on the lesion with a cotton swab or an aerosol spray. A scab will form over the treated area, which will heal within three to six weeks. Scarring is usually minimal with cryotherapy.
Nancy Monson is a Connecticut-based freelance writer. Her articles have been published in over 30 national magazines and newsletters, including AARP The Magazine, Family Circle, Shape, USA Today, Weight Watchers Magazine, and Woman’s Day. She is also the author of three books, including Craft to Heal: Soothing Your Soul with Sewing, Painting, and Other Crafts.