DPNs: This Sign of Aging is Nothing to Fear


The skin is a natural form of identity that we carry with us everywhere we go. Our skin tells our story, whether it’s our water intake, the amount of sunlight received, or even an underlying condition. Although it may be difficult to determine the type of skin treatment needed, we must pay close attention. Skin conditions such as dermatosis papulosa nigra (DPNs) may require medical attention from a dermatologist.

Dermatosis Papulosa Nigra (DPNs)

Dermatosis papulosa nigra (DPNs) is a benign growth that appears on the skin around the face and neck area. These lesions or bumps tend to be black or brown in color and vary in size. Related lesions, seborrheic keratosis, can be larger and may appear anywhere on the body. There is no known cause of DPNs, but there is a high possibility that this condition is genetic. According to board certified dermatologist Valerie M. Harvey, MD, MPH, FAAD, approximately half of patients report having a family history of DPNs.

Although these growths can affect anyone, they are most prominent in people of color. DPNs represent a sign of aging, typically appearing in individuals around age 20 and increase with age. DPNs are usually asymptomatic, but in some cases, they may cause pain and itching.

Diagnosis and Treatment

To establish a diagnosis, a dermatologist will perform a clinical examination. No additional testing is needed. Cosmetic treatments for DPNs involve destructive procedures, including cauterization, cryosurgery (freezing), or laser treatment. Possible adverse effects of treatment include discoloration (lightening or darkening of the skin), scarring, and keloid formation. Occasionally, DPNs can recur after they have been treated.

  • Cauterization – a medical technique that involves burning the skin to stop bleeding after an injury or to remove abnormal growth tissue
  • Cryosurgery – a type of surgery that freezes the designated area, destroying abnormal tissues as well as cancerous cells
  • Laser treatment – a medical treatment that uses a laser to focus on a small area of the body, destroying growth tissues, tumors, and polyps

If you believe that you may have DPNs, seek attention from a board certified dermatologist who can diagnose and develop a treatment plan for you. Rest assured, this sign of aging is nothing to fear.

About Dr. Valerie M. Harvey, MD, MPH

TPMG board certified dermatologist, Valerie M. Harvey, MD, MPH, has over a decade of experience specializing in treating common and uncommon skin conditions. Her past research efforts have focused on gaps in melanoma outcomes and the use of dermatology services among the underserved. She is an active leader in the dermatologic community and serves on numerous boards for the American Academy of Dermatology and Skin of Color Society. She continues to stay abreast of the latest research and advances in technology in the industry. Dr. Harvey has two office locations.  

TPMG Hampton Roads Center for Dermatology – Virginia Beach
Phone: 757-917-5101

TPMG Hampton Roads Center for Dermatology – Newport News
Phone: 757-232-8856

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