Keratosis Pilaris

What is  Keratosis pilaris ?

It is a commonly occurring skin disorder which results in the development of tiny bumps which look like acne as well as abnormal, rough patches of skin on the body. The abnormal skin normally occurs in various regions of the body like the buttocks, thighs and arms. The lumps are mostly reddish or whitish in appearance and normally are non-itchy and painless.

Even though keratosis pilaris does not lead to development of any medical complications, it does tend to result in a sandpaper-like appearance of the skin, which can be quite distressing and annoying for the affected individuals. More often than not, keratosis pilaris tends to fade away once a patient reaches the age of 30 years, but may also prolong in some other affected individuals.

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The process of treating keratosis pilaris is quite cumbersome and long, and hence can be a cause of extreme frustration in patients. However, lifestyle changes, certain self care techniques and the intake of some prescription drugs can help in the improvement of the overall look and feel of the skin.

Symptoms of keratosis pilaris

The signs and symptoms of keratosis pilaris are as follows:

  • Keratosis pilaris results in the formation of tiny bumps which are similar in appearance as acne. These lumps are normally skin colored and do not cause pain. Occasionally, they may turn red due to swelling or inflammation.
  • In certain cases, the skin disorder abnormalities may be increasingly itchy
  • The legs, arms and buttocks are the body parts which are normally affected by keratosis pilaris. The face may sometimes become a victim to the condition, which have an acne-like appearance. However, as opposed to pustular acne, keratosis pilaris is accompanied by chapped and dry skin along with the growth of tiny lumps.
  • After the successful treatment of keratosis pilaris, scars may be left behind or form on the face. This is not the case with instances of the condition affecting other parts of the body.
  • The skin abnormality can generally be found occurring in children, but adults can be affected as well. Keratosis pilaris has a tendency to wane during the months of summer, but may worsen in the future.

Causes of keratosis pilaris

  • Keratin is a solid protein which defends the skin against attack by infections and toxic substances. Keratosis pilaris is caused because of excessive accumulation of this protein. Increased quantities of keratin results in the establishment of a scaly plug, which in turn causes the opening of the hair follicle to fill up and choke. Many such plugs are created during a case of keratosis pilaris, ultimately resulting in the formation of lumpy and rough patches of skin.
  • The exact causes of keratin buildup are still a matter of research. However, many studies indicate that the skin condition may develop due to the blend of some factors, such as occurrence of skin anomalies like ichthyosis vulgaris or atopic dermatitis and some genetic irregularities.
  • Healthy individuals can also be affected by keratosis pilaris and the disease normally tends to worsen when dry skin is present.

Keratosis pilaris treatment

  • The skin anomalies that accompany keratosis pilaris cannot be treated with a single treatment method. The treatment of the disorder involves self care techniques and the use of topical medicines, ointments and creams so as to diminish the keratin deposits occurring beneath the skin.

Keratosis pilaris can be treated with the following medications:

  • Topical corticosteroids: They are anti-inflammatory medicines that suppress the immune system and facilitate reduced cell production. Hydrocortisone and other mild corticosteroid creams are mostly used to treat large affected boy parts and sensitive regions like the face. Since strong corticosteroid creams cause many side effects, including itching, skin thinning, irritation and local burning, they are mostly used for shorter durations so as to temporarily alleviate the signs of keratosis pilaris.
  • Topical retinoids: They facilitate cell turnover and thus avert hair follicle obstruction. Although, these medications created form vitamin A effectively control keratosis pilaris symptoms, they can also cause redness, skin peeling, excessive dryness and other side effects.
  • Topical exfoliants: They contain salicylic or lactic acid, urea or alpha-hydroxy and perform a number of functions, including dead skin cells removal, skin loosening, moisturizing the skin, etc. The side effects include skin irritation, redness and burning sensations. Therefore, it is recommended to consult a doctor before using this topical medication. One should also avoid using them on children.

Self care methods to improve keratosis pilaris involve the following:

  • Use of a humidifier to humidify the air, especially at home
  • One should not harshly scrub the skin during a bath or shower, as it can lead to aggravation and increased irritation of the skin.
  • Avoid the use of drying, harsh soaps
  • Once the shower is over, use a soft towel to gently tap the skin dry. One can then apply a moisturizer to the mildly wet skin.

Keratosis pilaris Pictures


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