Kerotosis Pilaris Demystified through answers to Five frequently asked questions

One of the most common complaints in Bangalore is recent onset of tiny bumps seen on the sides of arms , thighs and backs commonly referred as ‘Keratosis Pilaris’. Let us talk about this harmless but annoying skin condition.

Q-What is keratosis pilaris?

Ans- The name itself is self explanatory - ‘keratosis’ means dead skin ( the tough horny outer layer of the skin) while ‘pilaris’ comes from the Latin for hair (pilus). In keratosis pilaris, many small (1 to 2 mm across) horny plugs can be seen blocking the hair follicles on the upper and outer parts of the arms and thighs. This can look like goose bumps, but feels slightly rough.

Q-What causes keratosis pilaris?

Ans-It is mostly genetic in nature( 50 -70%) but causes are not fully understood. It has a definite association with dry skin and atopy( tendency to have allergy).

Q-What does keratosis pilaris look like?

Ans- The groups of small bumps are most common on the backs of the upper arms and on the fronts of the thighs. Sometimes keratosis pilaris also affects the back and chest and, in less common forms, the face and eyebrows as well. Some redness may appear around the small bumps. They are otherwise asymptomatic.

Q- How will keratosis pilaris be diagnosed?

Ans -There are no specific tests for keratosis pilaris; however, your doctor will recognise it easily. A biopsy is seldom needed, especially if it is associated with acne or eczema that do not get better with treatment and the biopsy is to explain that the person has two conditions not one, and one of them will not be cured (the keratosis pilaris).

Q- Is there any cure for Keratosis Pilaris?

Ans- No; however, it often (but not always) does clear up during adult life. Certain creams containing alpha hydroxyl acids like Glycolic acid and Lactic acid are helpful and can improve their appearance. Use of a good moisturiser (especially the ones containing urea) and a non comedogenic sunscreen would give an added advantage.

Q- What precautions should I take if I have this condition?

ANs- Keep your skin moisturised and hydrated.
Avoid waxing your hair in direction opposite to hair growth.

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