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What is  Keratosis pilaris ?

Keratosis pilaris is a common affliction of the skin that results in the development of tiny bumps that look like acne and rough patches of skin. Such skin conditions generally develop on the buttocks, thighs and arms. The bumps caused by keratosis pilaris are usually non-itchy and painless, and are white or sometimes red in color. The skin condition is difficult to treat and hence can cause a lot of distress. It is possible to improve the appearance of the skin with the help of prescription drugs and lifestyle changes that improve self-care.

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Even though the sandpaper-like appearance of the skin caused by keratosis pilaris is not appreciated by many, the condition itself is not serious and does not pose any medical complications. Most cases of the skin condition vanish by the age of thirty, but on certain occasions it may persist.

Keratosis pilaris symptoms

Some of the signs and symptoms of keratosis pilaris are discussed below:

  • Keratosis pilaris results in the formation of acne-like, tiny bumps
  • There are rough and dry patches of skin.
  • The papules are skin colored and do not cause pain. At times, they can become inflamed and red
  • Certain cases of keratosis pilaris may cause itchiness
  • Keratosis pilaris generally tend to appear on the leg, upper arms or buttocks but may sometimes affect the face. The facial bumps tend to resemble acne. However, the tiny appearance of the bumps combined with chapped and dry skin distinguishes the skin condition from pustular acne. Small scars may form on the face after the resolution of keratosis pilaris. The other affected regions of the body do not bear scar marks.
  • The condition mostly affects children, though adults may also be affected by keratosis pilaris. The condition tends to improve during the summer months, but does aggravate later on. Most cases of keratosis pilaris do not require treatment and resolve on their own. In case, you are concerned about the appearance of your skin, then you may consult a dermatologist or your family physician for remedy.

Causes of keratosis pilaris

  • Keratin is a hard protein that protects the skin from infections and toxic substances. Keratosis pilaris is caused due to the excess accumulation of keratin. This results in the formation of a scaly plug that causes the opening of the hair follicle to get blocked. Generally there is development of several plugs which results in patches of bumpy, rough skin.
  • The reasons for keratin buildup are unknown. But researchers indicate that the condition may occur in concurrence with certain genetic disorders as well as skin conditions such as atopic dermatitis or ichthyosis vulgaris.
  • Healthy individuals can also be affected by keratosis pilaris and the condition generally tends to worsen if the skin is dry.

Treatment of keratosis pilaris

There are no unique ways to treat and improve the skin condition caused due to keratosis pilaris. Most of the treatment options focus on softening of the keratin deposits within the skin with the use of medicated ointments and creams as well as self care measures

Some of the medications used to treat the skin condition are listed below:

  • Topical corticosteroids: They are anti-inflammatory medications that suppress the immune system thereby helping to diminish cell turnover. Corticosteroid creams such as hydrocortisone or its derivatives have low potency and hence recommended for treating extensive patches as well as sensitive regions such as the face. Stronger corticosteroid ointments and corticosteroids in general, have many side effects such as thinning of the skin and hence such creams are used for short-term treatment and for temporary alleviation of keratosis pilaris symptoms. Using these creams may result in irritation, local burning or itching.
  • Topical exfoliants: Medicated creams that contain salicylic or lactic acid, urea or alpha-hydroxy can be used to soften and moisturize the dry skin. Such creams also help loosen and remove the skin cells that are dead. Some of these creams are available over the counter while others need a prescription. It is best to consult a doctor for the best option. Such creams have acids which may cause skin irritation, stinging and redness. Hence they should not be used for the treatment of keratosis pilaris in young children.
  • Topical retinoids: Retinoids are extracted from vitamin A, and work by preventing the blockage of the hair follicles and cell turnover promotion. Topical retinoids may be effective in treating keratosis pilaris but they can lead to distressing skin irritations such as peeling, redness and severe dryness.

It is possible to improve the appearance of the skin with the regular use of above mentioned medications, but once individuals stop using them, keratosis pilaris can return. Also, even with the use of medications, the skin condition can persist for years.

There are several self help measures that can improve the appearance of the skin, though they do not cure the condition. Some of these measures are discussed below:

  • Do not vigorously scrub the skin while taking a bath as it may irritate the skin and worsen the condition.
  • Gently dry off after the shower and apply a moisturizing lotion while the skin is still moist.
  • You can add moisture to the air at home with the help of a humidifier
  • Avoid the use of harsh and drying soaps.

Keratosis pilaris pictures

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