What Is It?

Dermatofibromas are small, benign skin growths that can develop anywhere on the body but most often appear on the lower legs. These nodules are common in adults but are rare in children. They can be pink, gray, red or brown in color and may change color over the years. They are firm, and often feel like a stone under the skin. When pinched from the sides, the top of the growth may dimple inward.

Dermatofibromas are usually painless, but some people experience tenderness or itching. Most often, a single nodule develops, but some people can develop multiple dermatofibromas. They rarely grow larger than a half-inch in diameter.

The cause of dermatofibromas is unknown.


Dermatofibromas usually develop slowly and usually appear on the lower legs. 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.

Expected Duration

Dermatofibromas do not go away on their own. Unless they are removed, the nodules remain for life.


Because no one knows what causes dermatofibromas, there is no way to prevent them.


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.

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.

When To Call A Professional

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.

Johns Hopkins patient information

Last revised:

Diseases and Conditions Center

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All ArmMed Media material is provided for information only and is neither advice nor a substitute for proper medical care. Consult a qualified healthcare professional who understands your particular history for individual concerns.