Dermatosis papulosa nigra (DPN)

What is DPN?

It is a condition where dark spots appear on the head and neck of patients with darker skin tones.

It affects up to 7 out of 10 African American patients. About 5 out of 10 patients have a family history.

How do I know if I have DPN?

  • You will get small, tan to dark-brown soft bumps on the middle of your face and forehead. The bumps can also be on your neck and upper torso.
  • After the bumps appear, they do not go away.
  • People tend to get more bumps the older they get. There is no predicting how many bumps a person will get.
  • The bumps usually do not cause any symptoms.

How do you treat DPN?

  • It is not dangerous and does not have to be treated.
  • Some people want the bumps removed for cosmetic reasons. Treatment is not covered by insurance.
  • One treatment is electrodessication:
    • An electric current goes through a needle with a fine tip to heat and destroy the bumps.
    • It is done in the doctor’s office.
    • Topical numbing medicines can be used before the treatment.
    • Side effects are a small amount of redness and pain.
    • Treatment should make the bumps go away or get smaller. After treatment you may have a lighter brown or tan flat spot in its place.
    • Risks of the procedure include pigmentary changes and (rarely) scarring in treated areas.
Last reviewed: 
February 2017

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