What terms are used to describe morphologic findings of benign skin lesions?

Updated: Jan 30, 2020
  • Author: Ginard I Henry, MD; Chief Editor: Gregory Gary Caputy, MD, PhD, FICS  more...
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Note that some of the terms below can be used to describe both a morphologic and a histologic finding; such terms are denoted with an asterisk (*).

Gross morphologic terms, with their most common definitions, follow:

  • Blister - Nonspecific term for fluid-filled lesion (see vesicle or bulla)

  • Bulla - Fluid-filled lesion >5 mm in greatest dimension

  • Erosion* - Loss of epidermis

  • Excoriation - Lesion of traumatic nature with epidermal loss in a generally linear shape

  • Lichenification * - Grossly thickened, leathery, hyperpigmented skin with hyperkeratosis and deep, widely-spaced skin markings

  • Macule - Flat circumscribed area demarcated by color from surrounding tissue

  • Nodule - Solid raised discrete lesion >5 mm in both diameter and depth

  • Onycholysis – Separation of the nail from the nailbed Papule - Solid raised discrete lesion ≤5 mm

  • Pedunculated - Attached to its base by a stalk-like structure

  • Plaque - Flat but elevated area, usually >5 mm

  • Pustule - Small pus-filled elevated area of the skin with discrete borders

  • Ulceration* - Loss of epidermis with partial-to-complete loss of dermis

  • Seborrheic - Related to excessive secretion of sebum

  • Sebum - Thick, greasy substance secreted by sebaceous glands that consists of fat and cellular debris

  • Sessile - Attached directly to the skin by a broad base; not pedunculated

  • Vesicle - Fluid-filled lesion ≤5 mm

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