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Celllular Dermatofibroma Picture

A dermatofibroma is a round, brownish to red-purple growth commonly found on the legs. It is also called a histiocytoma. It can occur anywhere, but seems to favor exposed areas. During the summer months you are more likely to contract this skin disorder due to parts of the body being more exposed. Dermatofibromas feel like hard lumps under the skin. They're like an iceberg in that there is more under the skin than seen on the surface. This deception can often lead to the conclusion that there is nothing major to worry about. Often these start out as red, turning later to brown, and sometimes itch. They probably are a reaction to a minor injury, such a bug bite or a splinter.


DermatofibromaThe histiocytoma generally arises from a site of trauma e.g. an insect bite.
Initially the lesion develops as a firm papule or a button-like tumor. Lesions may be slightly tender and their size may vary slightly over time.
The rapid growth and brown pigmentation of the lesion may cause it to be confused with a melanoma.
Fibrous histiocytomas tend to dimple inward upon lateral compression. This feature is useful in distinguishing them from nodular melanomas which tend to protrude outward upon lateral compression.


Dermatofibromas usually develop slowly and usually appear on the lower legs. The signs are the assisting characteristics through which you can distinguish this skin disorder. By being aware of these characteristics will enable you to seek immediate treatment. These small, hard, raised skin growths can have various characteristics:

  • Usually found on the lower legs, but may appear on the arms or trunk
  • May be red, pink, purplish, gray or brown and may change colors over time
  • May be as small as a BB pellet but rarely grow larger than a fingernail
  • Often painless but may be tender, painful or itchy
  • Usually dimple inward when pinched.


Most often, a physician can diagnose a dermatofibroma by examining the nodule. If the growth does not look like a typical dermatofibroma, if a bleeding sore appears on its surface, or if the physician wants to be certain of the diagnosis, he or she performs a biopsy. A biopsy removes either a portion or all of the nodule for examination under a microscope. Remember it is crucial to ask your physician questions if you are unsure about the effects of treatment. This will give you peace of mind before treatment starts.


Dermatofibromas do not require treatment because they do not pose any risk.
Some patients may prefer to have their dermatofibromas removed. This may be desirable if the growth is unsightly, is in an inconvenient location (such as in a place that repeatedly becomes nicked while shaving or is irritated by clothing), or is painful or itchy. Often getting the dermatofibromas removed would work out to a patient’s advantage in the long run.

  • Dermatofibroma are best ignored. If the diagnosis is uncertain, a piece may be removed for tissue analysis.
  • Dermatofibroma can be removed surgically, but since they are deep, this usually leaves a scar.
  • Liquid nitrogen freezing destroys only the upper part of the growth. Therefore, the dermatofibroma, after some years, may again become noticeable. Usually any regrowth is slight and can be handled by another freezing.

There are two main ways to remove a dermatofibroma: surgically or by freezing. Because a dermatofibroma grows deep, total surgical removal requires cutting it out below the surface level of the skin. This process usually leaves a noticeable scar. Alternatively, the nodule may be flattened to the surface of the skin by shaving the top off with a surgical knife or by freezing it with liquid nitrogen. In both of these procedures, the top layers of the dermatofibroma are destroyed, but the deeper layers remain. The nodule may grow back again after several years. This gives a clear indication that a permanent solution to this type of skin disorder has not yet been discovered.

Seeking Medical Attention

It is wise to see a physician to get an accurate diagnosis of any new skin growth, especially one that is dark brown or black or changes color. See a doctor immediately if the growth bleeds, grows quickly, or becomes painful.


Dermatofibromas are benign (noncancerous) growths, and they do not become cancerous.

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