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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. Keratosis pilaris is thought to be partly inherited (genetic) in origin. About 50%-70% of patients with keratosis pilaris have a known genetic predisposition and a high rate of affected family members. Many individuals have a strong family history of keratosis pilaris or "chicken skin." 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, hyperkeratosis, 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.