Q: What is keratosis pilaris and how is it treated?
A: Sometimes called chicken skin, keratosis pilaris is a common and harmless skin condition. It looks like tiny skin colored bumps that are like sandpaper in texture. It typically affects the outer parts of the arms, thighs, and occasionally the cheeks. It usually affects children, adolescents and young adults.
It is caused by blocked hair follicles. The hair follicles are blocked by keratin which is a biochemical protein that typically protects the skin. When keratin blocks a hair follicle instead of sloughing off, hair is unable to grow and small skin colored bumps appear on your skin. The body's increased production of keratin and inability to clear it adequately is hereditary. So if you were diagnosed with keratosis pilaris, chances are your child may get the disorder as well.
Diagnosis of keratosis pilaris does not need any special tests. It is often confirmed on visual inspection of the skin by a health care provider.
Treatment usually consists of over the counter moisturizers. More severe cases may require topical prescription remedies that may contain urea, lactic acid, or retinoids. The good news is the condition commonly goes away by the time one reaches their 30s although some may persist for years. Again it is not a life threatening condition but most patients will seek care from a dermatologist due to the cosmetic nature of the problem.