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Keratosis Pilaris: Causes, Symptoms, and Treatments

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Keratosis pilaris (KP) is a common, harmless skin condition that causes dry, rough bumps on the skin. These bumps are usually found on the upper arms, thighs, cheeks, and buttocks. They can also be found on the back, chest, and scalp.

What is Keratosis Pilaris?

Keratosis pilaris is caused by a buildup of keratin, a protein that makes up the outermost layer of skin. This buildup can block the hair follicles, causing the bumps to form.

What Causes Keratosis Pilaris?

The exact cause of keratosis pilaris is unknown, but it is thought to be caused by a combination of factors, including:

  • Genetics: KP is often inherited, so if you have a family history of the condition, you are more likely to develop it.
  • Dry skin: Dry skin can make it more difficult for the skin to shed dead cells, which can lead to a buildup of keratin and the formation of bumps.
  • Eczema: People with eczema are more likely to develop keratosis pilaris.
  • Cold weather: KP can be worse in cold, dry weather.
  • Irritation: Rubbing or scratching the skin can irritate the hair follicles and make KP worse.

Who Gets Keratosis Pilaris?

Keratosis pilaris is most common in children and young adults. It is estimated that up to 40% of people have the condition. KP is more common in people with fair skin.

How Is Keratosis Pilaris Diagnosed?

Keratosis pilaris is usually diagnosed based on its appearance. A doctor may also do a physical exam to rule out other skin conditions, such as eczema or psoriasis.

Treatments for Keratosis Pilaris

There is no cure for keratosis pilaris, but there are treatments that can help improve the appearance of the bumps.

Home Remedies

There are a number of home remedies that can help treat keratosis pilaris, including:

  • Exfoliating the skin with a gentle scrub can help remove dead skin cells and unclog hair follicles.
  • Moisturizing the skin regularly can help keep the skin hydrated and prevent it from drying out.
  • Using a humidifier in the home can help add moisture to the air and prevent the skin from drying out.
  • Avoiding scratching the skin can help prevent irritation and make the bumps worse.

Over-the-Counter Medications

There are a number of over-the-counter medications that can help treat keratosis pilaris, including:

  • Amlactin: This lotion contains alpha hydroxy acid, which can help exfoliate the skin and remove dead skin cells.
  • Urea cream: This cream can help moisturize the skin and prevent it from drying out.
  • Salicylic acid wash: This wash can help exfoliate the skin and remove dead skin cells.

Prescription Medications

In some cases, a doctor may prescribe a prescription medication to treat keratosis pilaris, such as:

  • Tazarotene: This cream is a retinoid that can help reduce the buildup of keratin.
  • Acitretin: This oral medication is a retinoid that can help reduce the buildup of keratin.
  • Doxepin: This oral medication is an antidepressant that can also help treat keratosis pilaris.

Laser Treatment

In some cases, a doctor may recommend laser treatment to treat keratosis pilaris. Laser treatment can help destroy the hair follicles and prevent new bumps from forming.

Preventing Keratosis Pilaris

There is no sure way to prevent keratosis pilaris, but there are some things you can do to reduce your risk, including:

  • Keeping your skin hydrated: Moisturize your skin regularly, especially after bathing or showering.
  • Avoiding hot water: Hot water can dry out your skin, so try to take shorter showers or baths with lukewarm water.
  • Using a humidifier: A humidifier can help add moisture to the air and prevent your skin from drying out.
  • Exfoliating gently: Exfoliating your skin can help remove dead skin cells and unclog hair follicles. However, be sure to use a gentle exfoliator and avoid scrubbing too hard, as this can irritate your skin.
  • Avoiding scratching: Scratching can irritate the skin and make the bumps worse.
  • Wearing loose-fitting clothing: Tight-fitting clothing can rub against the skin and irritate the hair follicles.

Frequently Asked Questions

1. How long does keratosis pilaris last?

Keratosis pilaris is a chronic condition, which means it doesn’t go away completely. However, the bumps can improve with treatment and may go away completely during the summer months.

2. Is keratosis pilaris contagious?

No, keratosis pilaris is not contagious. It is not caused by bacteria or viruses.

3. Can keratosis pilaris be painful?

The bumps of keratosis pilaris are usually not painful. However, they can be itchy or uncomfortable.

4. What are the risks of laser treatment for keratosis pilaris?

Laser treatment is generally safe, but there are some risks, including:

  • Skin irritation
  • Redness
  • Swelling
  • Hyperpigmentation (darkening of the skin)
  • Hypopigmentation (lightening of the skin)

5. Can keratosis pilaris be prevented?

There is no sure way to prevent keratosis pilaris, but there are some things you can do to reduce your risk, such as:

  • Keeping your skin hydrated
  • Avoiding hot water
  • Using a humidifier
  • Exfoliating gently
  • Avoiding scratching
  • Wearing loose-fitting clothing

If you are concerned about keratosis pilaris, talk to your doctor. They can help you determine the best treatment for you.

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