Keratosis pilaris

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Overview

Keratosis pilaris is a common skin condition, which appears as tiny bumps on the skin. Some people say these bumps look like goosebumps or the skin of a plucked chicken. Others mistake the bumps for small pimples.

These rough-feeling bumps are actually plugs of dead skin cells. The plugs appear most often on the upper arms and thighs (front). Children may have these bumps on their cheeks.

Keratosis pilaris

This harmless skin condition causes tiny, rough-feeling bumps on the skin.

Keratosis pilaris causes tiny bumps on the skin

Because keratosis pilaris is harmless, you don't need to treat it. If the itch, dryness, or the appearance of these bumps bothers you, treatment can help. Treatment can ease the symptoms and help you see clearer skin.

Treating dry skin often helps. Dry skin can make these bumps more noticeable. In fact, many people say the bumps clear during the summer only to return in the winter. If you decide not to treat these bumps and live in a dry climate or frequently swim in a pool, you may see these bumps year round.


Symptoms

Painless tiny bumps, typically on the upper arms, thighs, cheeks or buttocks.

Dry, rough skin in the areas with bumps.

Worsening when seasonal changes cause low humidity and dry skin.

Sandpaper-like bumps resembling goose flesh.

Causes

This benign skin condition is the result of a buildup of keratin, a hair protein, in the pores.

If you have keratosis pilaris, the keratin of your body hair gets clogged in the pores, blocking the opening of growing hair follicles. As a result, a small bump forms over where a hair should be. If you were to pick at the bump, you may notice a small body hair emerge.

The exact cause of keratin buildup is unknown, but doctors think it may be associated with skin conditions such as atopic dermatitis and genetic diseases.

Chicken skin is common in women, children or teenagers, and those of Celtic ancestry, as well as those with:

dry skin

eczema

ichthyosis

hay fever

obesity


Risk factors

Close blood relatives who have keratosis pilaris.

Asthma.

Dry skin.

Eczema (atopic dermatitis)

Excess body weight, which makes you overweight or obese.

Hay fever.

Ichthyosis vulgaris (a skin condition that causes very dry skin)

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Complications

Complications from keratosis pilaris (KP) are infrequent. However, postinflammatory hypopigmentation or hyperpigmentation and scarring may occur. A gradual loss of hair in affected facial areas, especially the lateral eyebrows, may be seen in ulerythema ophryogenes (keratosis pilaris atrophicans faciei).

Prevention

Keratosis pilaris is often considered a variant of normal skin. It can't be cured or prevented. But you can treat it with moisturizers and prescription creams to help improve the appearance of the skin. The condition usually disappears by age 30.