What Is Keratosis Pilaris?

When dry, rough patches and small bumps appear on your skin it can be challenging to determine the cause.  One of the conditions that may be the culprit is known as keratosis pilaris.  This skin issue commonly affects children and adolescents, although adults may experience it as well.  While the summer season is fast approaching, there is still time to treat this skin concern in you or your child before you hit the beach or pool.

Is Keratosis Pilaris Dangerous?

Characterized by small, rough patches on the skin, keratosis pilaris has an appearance that lends itself to descriptions such as chicken skin or chicken bumps.  Some people describe it as goose bumps that simply don’t go away.  Since this condition is not painful, many people tend not to realize they have it until they seek a physician’s advice for a different dermatological concern, particularly one that involves dryness of the skin.

Keratosis pilaris is not a dangerous skin condition, but seeking treatment can help you or your child to feel more comfortable and confident.  During the winter you may find that the condition worsens.  In these cases there seems to be a connection between having overall dry skin and experiencing the rough, bumpy patches.  For these patients, the summer months may provide a reprieve.

Since keratosis pilaris can include periods of remission, patients should know the signs that it has flared.  These include:

  • Small bumps on the skin that do not cause pain and are usually seen on the cheeks, upper arms, thighs, or buttocks
  • Small bumps accompanied by dry skin that feels rough to the touch
  • Connection between the appearance of rough, bumpy patches and drops in humidity or other conditions that cause dry skin
  • A patch of skin that looks like goose bumps that won’t disappear on their own

What Causes Keratosis Pilaris?

Approximately 50 to 80% of adolescents experience it, and 40% of adults.  Having a family history of this skin condition makes it more likely that you will experience it as well.   In patients who have keratosis pilaris, there is a buildup of keratin in the skin and leads to the formation of a plug that blocks the hair follicle.  The bumps that characterize the condition are a result of having many plugs form, creating blockages for multiple follicles.

Treatment Methods

Many patients with keratosis pilaris will find that the condition improves as they age.  Those who are concerned about the cosmetic appearance generally seek treatment if it doesn’t clear on its own.  Topical medications that may be used include creams that prevent blocked follicles or eliminate dead skin cells.  With regular use of prescribed creams, it is possible to improve the skin’s appearance, but the condition itself may persist.  In order to keep the condition at bay, it is important not to stop treatment unless a doctor advises you to do so.

If you think you or your child may be experiencing keratosis pilaris, schedule an appointment with your dermatologist.  Once the area is examined, you can begin the best treatment plan for this condition.

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