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Diseases and Conditions
Keratosis pilarisFrom MayoClinic.com
Special to CNN.com
Keratosis pilaris is a harmless skin disorder that causes small, acne-like bumps. Although it isn't serious, keratosis pilaris can be frustrating because it's difficult to treat.
Keratosis pilaris results from a buildup of protein called keratin in the openings of hair follicles in the skin. This produces small, rough patches, usually on the arms and thighs. Though quite common with young children, keratosis pilaris can occur at any age.
Many people are bothered by the goose flesh appearance of keratosis pilaris, but it doesn't have long-term health implications and occurs in otherwise healthy people.
Keratosis pilaris usually resolves without treatment. But if you're concerned about the appearance of your skin, your doctor can help you determine the best course of treatment, which includes self-care measures and medicated creams.
Signs and symptoms
Keratosis pilaris causes small, acne-like bumps, which usually appear on the upper arms, legs or buttocks; they usually don't hurt or itch. The bumps create rough patches and give skin a goose flesh or sandpaper appearance. Typically, patches are skin colored, but they can, at times, be red and inflamed.
Keratosis pilaris can also appear on the face, where it closely resembles acne. The small size of the bumps and its association with dry, chapped skin distinguish keratosis pilaris from pustular acne. Unlike elsewhere on the body, keratosis pilaris on the face may leave small scars.
Though quite common with young children, keratosis pilaris can occur at any age. It may improve, especially during the summer months, only to later worsen. Gradually, keratosis pilaris resolves on its own.
Keratosis pilaris results from the buildup of keratin — a hard protein that protects your skin from harmful substances and infection. The keratin forms a horny plug that blocks the opening of the hair follicle. Usually many plugs form, causing patches of rough, bumpy skin.
Why keratin builds up is unknown. But it may occur in association with genetic diseases or with other skin conditions, such as ichthyosis vulgaris or atopic dermatitis. Keratosis pilaris also occurs in otherwise healthy people. Dry skin tends to worsen the condition.
When to seek medical advice
Keratosis pilaris isn't a serious medical condition, and treatment usually isn't necessary. However, if you're concerned about the appearance of your skin, consult your family doctor or a dermatologist. He or she can often make a diagnosis by examining your skin and the characteristic horny plugs.
No single treatment universally improves keratosis pilaris. But most options, including self-care measures and medicated creams, focus on softening the keratin deposits in the skin.
Prescription medications used to treat keratosis pilaris include:
Using a medication regularly may improve the appearance of your skin. But if you stop, the condition returns. And even with medical treatment, keratosis pilaris tends to persist for years.
Although self-help measures won't cure keratosis pilaris, they may help improve the appearance of your skin. You may find these measures beneficial:
August 02, 2006