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Keratosis pilaris

Contents of this page:


Keratosis pilaris on the cheek
Keratosis pilaris on the cheek
Keratosis pilaris rubra faceii
Keratosis pilaris rubra faceii
Keratosis pilaris rubra faceii
Keratosis pilaris rubra faceii

Definition    Return to top

Keratosis pilaris is a common skin condition in which a protein in the skin called keratin forms hard plugs within hair follicles.

Causes    Return to top

Keratosis pilaris is benign, self-limiting, and often disappears with age. It is more common in patients who tend to have very dry skin, or who have atopic dermatitis (eczema). It seems to run in families.

In mild cases, small bumps, similar in appearance to "goose bumps," are found on the backs of the upper arms. The texture is that of very coarse sandpaper.

Bumps may also appear on the buttocks and thighs. Less commonly, lesions appear on the face and may be mistaken for acne.

Individual lesions consist of small, skin-colored papules that form within hair openings. The condition is generally worse in winter and often clears in the summer.

Symptoms    Return to top

Exams and Tests    Return to top

Physical examination is usually sufficient for your health care provider to make this diagnosis. Testing is usually not necessary.

Treatment    Return to top

Moisturizing lotions are often soothing and may help the appearance of the skin. Skin creams with medications containing urea, lactic acid, glycolic acid, salicylic acid, tretinoin, or vitamin D may be recommended by your physician. However, improvement often takes months and the bumps are likely to come back.

Outlook (Prognosis)    Return to top

Keratosis pilaris may fade slowly with age.

When to Contact a Medical Professional    Return to top

Call for an appointment with your health care provider (or discuss the condition during a routine visit) if you suspect that you have keratosis pilaris and the condition does not respond to use of over-the-counter moisturizing lotions.

Update Date: 2/5/2008

Updated by: Kevin Berman, MD, PhD, Associate, Atlanta Center for Dermatologic Disease, Atlanta, GA. Review provided by VeriMed Healthcare Network. Also reviewed by David Zieve, MD, MHA, Medical Director, A.D.A.M., Inc.

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