Keratosis Pilaris (KP)

  • Medical Author:
    Gary W. Cole, MD, FAAD

    Dr. Cole is board certified in dermatology. He obtained his BA degree in bacteriology, his MA degree in microbiology, and his MD at the University of California, Los Angeles. He trained in dermatology at the University of Oregon, where he completed his residency.

  • Medical Editor: William C. Shiel Jr., MD, FACP, FACR
    William C. Shiel Jr., MD, FACP, FACR

    William C. Shiel Jr., MD, FACP, FACR

    Dr. Shiel received a Bachelor of Science degree with honors from the University of Notre Dame. There he was involved in research in radiation biology and received the Huisking Scholarship. After graduating from St. Louis University School of Medicine, he completed his Internal Medicine residency and Rheumatology fellowship at the University of California, Irvine. He is board-certified in Internal Medicine and Rheumatology.

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Who gets keratosis pilaris?

Anyone can have keratosis pilaris. Although it is commonly a skin condition of children and adolescents, it is also seen in many adults. Females may be more frequently affected than males. The age of onset is often within the first 10 years of life and may worsen during puberty. However, keratosis pilaris may begin at any age. Keratosis pilaris seems to be inherited. It has been commonly been seen in twins. Keratosis pilaris is also seen in patients with atopic dermatitis and patients with very dry skin.

Does keratosis pilaris affect the entire body?

Although possible, it is rare to have keratosis pilaris all over the body. The lesions in keratosis pilaris most characteristically involve the back of the upper arms. Other common locations include the back, thighs, buttocks and occasionally the face. It does not affect the eyes, mouth, palms, or soles.

What causes keratosis pilaris?

The exact cause of keratosis pilaris is unknown. There seems to be a problem with overproduction of the keratin part of the skin called hyperkeratinization. A majority of patients with keratosis pilaris have a known genetic predisposition and affected family members. Keratosis pilaris can be present with ichthyosis vulgaris, dry skin seasonal inhalant allergies, rhinitis, asthma, eczema, and atopic dermatitis.

The bumps in keratosis pilaris seem to arise from the excessive accumulation of keratin (very small, dry skin particles) at the opening of individual hair follicles. The skin as examined under the microscope demonstrates mild thickening, and plugging of the hair follicle. The upper skin layers may have some dilation of the small superficial blood vessels, thereby giving the skin a red or flushed appearance.

Medically Reviewed by a Doctor on 7/28/2016

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