Last reviewed by Editorial Team on August 13th, 2018.
What is Keratosis Pilaris?
Keratosis pilaris is a condition that occurs during childhood and adolescence stage. It is a skin condition characterized by the growth of acne-like bumps or similar to a chicken skin that often develops in the outer side or back of the arms, thighs, cheeks and the buttocks. The chicken skin like bumps may also occur in any other part of the body except in the glabrous skin such as the palm of the hands or sole of the feet.
Keratosis pilaris is a common and harmless skin condition that can affect the general population regardless of age and gender. This skin condition does not have a long term effect on the overall health nor does it have mortality or morbidity association except that Keratosis pilaris can be unappealing in terms of the cosmetic aspect. The incidence is prevalent among young children and is more common in female than male gender. The symptoms of the disease on the other hand, intensify as the child reaches prepuberty stage. It is believed that Keratosis pilaris usually resolved by the time the child reaches adulthood although this is not always the case. Keratosis pilaris is a non-contagious condition and even healthy individuals can get affected.
Keratosis pilaris is an autosomal dominant condition of the genetic follicular which can exist in babies and becomes more apparent by the time the child reaches the teenage years. The incidence is not common among elderly people while it is prevalent among overweight individuals and those suffering from ichthyosis or atopic dermatitis.
Keratosis Pilaris Symptoms
Keratosis pilaris has various types which are classified according to the characteristic of the skin patches that developed. Although with several types, Keratosis pilaris in general occur as recognizable skin bumps that are rather rough and dry. The skin patches are similar to goose bumps that stayed on permanently or are similar to a chicken skin. It is generally unattractive or unappealing and may cause discomfort to the patient. It is however, a harmless condition yet can affect the quality of life.
The affected skin in Keratosis pilaris will have the skin covered in tiny bumps similar to the appearance of goose bumps which can have a reddish, whitish or skin-tone color. The skin will feel rough and dry and itchiness may also occur. The size of the keratotic papules is about the size of a sand grain or is about 1 mm to 2mm in diameter and develops with about 10 to 100 tiny bumps scattered on the skin of the affected area and which makes the skin feel like sandpaper.
The different variants of Keratosis pilaris include the following:
- Keratosis pilaris rubra is described by reddish inflamed lesions that exist as larger patches. This type of Keratosis pilaris commonly occurs during the winter season when the skin tends to become drier. It appears in the areas of the arms, legs and buttocks.
- Keratosis pilaris alba generally appears on the arms, legs and buttocks. It is described by rough and bumpy skin that is often non-irritating although the inflammation may sometimes cause pain. This type of Keratosis pilaris is with skin inflammation and usually intensifies during the dry winter season.
- Keratosis pilaris atrophicans faciei is characterized by facial follicular atrophy or tiny scar like indentations as it resolves. It is reddish tiny bumps that develop on the face particularly on the cheeks. It is one of the two types of Keratosis pilaris that occurs on the cheek.
- Keratosis pilaris rubra faciei is one of the two types of Keratosis pilaris that develops on the face particularly on the cheeks. It is sometimes mistaken for another skin condition known as rosacea and is commonly seen among babies. Keratosis pilaris rubra faciei may also occur during the early childhood and adolescence stage. The papules in this type of Keratosis pilaris make the skin feel rough and dry.
Keratosis pilaris is the result of excessive production of protein in the body known as keratin. Keratin is a substance responsible for protecting the body against harmful substances and infection. An overproduction of keratin results to its buildup thereby obstructing the portal of the hair follicle. The buildup of the excess keratin causes the rough patches and skin bumps similar to the appearance of a goose bump or chicken skin.
The cause of keratin buildup remains unclear but Keratosis pilaris is being associated with a genetic disease and other skin disorders. The development of the tiny bumps is the consequence of an ingrown hair that is prevented from going out of the pores and which leave them encapsulated thus the formation of hard plugs.
Keratosis pilaris is a condition that occurs in an autosomal dominant pattern and which is believed to run strongly in the family. A child with a parent affected with Keratosis pilaris has a chance of inheriting the disease. The disease on the other hand can occur sporadically as in the case of healthy individuals without the family history of Keratosis pilaris.
Keratosis pilaris is not a contagious skin condition which can be transmitted from one person to another. It is rather a harmless condition that is mostly aggravated or intensifies during the dry winter season. It is a common skin condition that mainly affects young children and those in the adolescence stage. The disease is believed to improve as the child advances in age or by the time the child reaches adulthood although this is not always the case.
The aim of treating Keratosis pilaris is to soften the area of the skin with keratin deposits. There is no known cure for this condition but to help in improving the appearance of the skin to lessen the cosmetically disturbing effect of the disease. Keratosis pilaris is a harmless disease that usually improves as soon as the child reaches adulthood. Many patients on the other hand seek treatment for cosmetic concern.
Treatment for improving Keratosis pilaris may include the following:
- Topical creams including lotions are mostly used for the treatment of Keratosis pilaris. Creams and lotions containing the likes of urea, tretinoin, lactic acid and glycolic acid are mostly prescribed to help improve and treat Keratosis pilaris.
- Topical retinoid is regarded as an effective treatment in preventing the obstruction of hair follicle. It is a derivative of Vitamin A but the drawback of the treatment is the skin irritations it can cause the patient.
- Laser therapy is indicated for certain type of Keratosis pilaris particularly those that are severe and associated with inflammation.
- Keratosis pilaris that remains unresponsive to non-invasive treatment may be treated with a minor surgical procedure and other methods such as dermabrasion, photodynamic therapy and chemical peels.
Home remedies and other self-care measures can help in improving the appearance of the rash aside from softening the skin with keratin buildup.
Home remedies for Keratosis pilaris may include the following:
- Bathing with lukewarm water instead of cold baths or hot baths is beneficial in improving the condition of the skin.
- Gentle scrub of the skin instead of vigorous rubbing during the bath is recommended. It is best to use exfoliating foam pads to rub off the hard layers of skin caused by Keratosis pilaris.
- Dry off skin gently by patting the skin with a towel instead of rubbing the water off. This can also help in maintaining the moisture of the skin after bath.
- Application of moisturizer and lotion immediately after drying off from the bath and while the skin is still moist from the bath will help in treating Keratosis pilaris. Moisturizing creams and lotions containing lanolin and glycerin including the use of petroleum jelly to help in keeping the moist of the skin while soothing the dry skin are beneficial.