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A.D.A.M. Medical Encyclopedia [Internet]. Atlanta (GA): A.D.A.M.; 2013.

A.D.A.M. Medical Encyclopedia.

Keratosis pilaris

Last reviewed: November 22, 2011.

Keratosis pilaris is a common skin condition in which a protein in the skin called keratin forms hard plugs within hair follicles.

Causes, incidence, and risk factors

Keratosis pilaris is harmless (benign). It seems to run in families.  It is more common in people who have very dry skin, or who have atopic dermatitis (eczema).

The condition is generally worse in winter and often clears in the summer.

Symptoms

Symptoms include:

  • Small bumps that look like "goose bumps" on the back of the upper arms and thighs
  • Bumps feel like very rough sandpaper
  • Skin-colored bumps are the size of a grain of sand
  • Slight pinkness may be seen around some bumps
  • Bumps may appear on the face and be mistaken for acne

Signs and tests

Your doctor or nurse can usually diagnose this condition by looking at your skin. Tests are usually not needed.

Treatment

Treatment may include:

  • Moisturizing lotions to soothe the skin and help it look better
  • Skin creams that contain urea, lactic acid, glycolic acid, salicylic acid, tretinoin, or vitamin D
  • Steroid creams to reduce redness

Improvement often takes months and the bumps are likely to come back.

Expectations (prognosis)

Keratosis pilaris may fade slowly with age.

Calling your health care provider

Call your doctor or nurse if the bumps are bothersome and do not get better with lotions you buy without a prescription.

Review Date: 11/22/2011.

Reviewed by: Kevin Berman, MD, PhD, Atlanta Center for Dermatologic Disease, Atlanta, GA. Review provided by VeriMed Healthcare Network. Also reviewed by David Zieve, MD, MHA, Medical Director, A.D.A.M., Inc.

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The information provided herein should not be used during any medical emergency or for the diagnosis or treatment of any medical condition. A licensed medical professional should be consulted for diagnosis and treatment of any and all medical conditions. Call 911 for all medical emergencies. Links to other sites are provided for information only — they do not constitute endorsementscof those other sites. © 1997–2011 A.D.A.M., Inc. Any duplication or distribution of the information contained herein is strictly prohibited.

Copyright © 2013, A.D.A.M., Inc.

A.D.A.M., Inc. is accredited by URAC, also known as the American Accreditation HealthCare Commission (www.urac.org). URAC's accreditation program is an independent audit to verify that A.D.A.M. follows rigorous standards of quality and accountability. A.D.A.M. is among the first to achieve this important distinction for online health information and services. Learn more about A.D.A.M.'s editorial policy, editorial process and privacy policy. A.D.A.M. is also a founding member of Hi-Ethics and subscribes to the principles of the Health on the Net Foundation (www.hon.ch).

The information provided herein should not be used during any medical emergency or for the diagnosis or treatment of any medical condition. A licensed medical professional should be consulted for diagnosis and treatment of any and all medical conditions. Call 911 for all medical emergencies. Links to other sites are provided for information only — they do not constitute endorsementscof those other sites. © 1997–2011 A.D.A.M., Inc. Any duplication or distribution of the information contained herein is strictly prohibited.

Copyright © 2013, A.D.A.M., Inc.

Figures

  • Keratosis pilaris on the cheek.
    Keratosis pilaris rubra faceii.
    Keratosis pilaris rubra faceii.

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