Do you have tan and reddish bumps on your arms, the backs of your thighs, and perhaps even on your buttocks? If these bumps always seem to be present, then they might be due to a skin condition known as keratosis pilaris. Luckily, this skin disorder is not as scary as its complex name would suggest, and it is actually quite common. Here's what you need to know as someone who suffer from keratosis pilaris, or KP as it is commonly called.
What causes KP?
Contrary to what you may initially assume, KP is not an allergic reaction or a sign that you've come into contact with a contaminant. Doctors are not quite sure what causes the condition and why some people suffer from it while others do not. However, the bumps are the result of a buildup of keratin in the hair follicle. (Keratin is a protein-based substance that gives nails and hair their hard texture.) The keratin essentially builds a plug that sits inside the opening to the hair follicle. Some patients can actually see these little plugs pop out of they squeeze their skin. In other patients, the plugs just result in a rough, scaly, bumpy skin texture.
KP is thought to have a genetic component. So if you have children as someone with KP, there is a good chance they will have the condition, too. It may also be hormone-related. This may explain why some patients -- especially women -- find that their bumps go through cycles of getting worse and then better.
How is KP treated?
There is no cure for KP, so you will probably deal with it to some degree for the rest of your life. There are patients whose symptoms spontaneously disappear or become much less severe, but once again, doctors are not sure why this happens.
There are a few things you can do to ease the severity of your skin bumps. Applying lotion after every shower will help keep the keratin plugs softer, which should make the bumps less noticeable. You may also want to use a cleanser that contains benzoyl peroxide or lactic acid, as these ingredients tend to ease the production of excess keratin. Some patients find that their bumps become less noticeable when they spend more time in the sun; however, sun exposure can cause discoloration in the bumps to become more noticeable.
One of the best things you can do to ease your KP is exfoliate your skin regularly. Choose a mild exfoliating product from your local drugstore, and apply it with a washcloth in the shower. Rub in a circular motion for about 30 seconds, and then rinse the exfoliating product away. Try to repeat this process once or twice per week.
When should you see a dermatologist about your KP?
Most mild cases of KP can be managed at home since the condition is mostly annoying and won't lead to serious medical problems. However, if you are not getting the relief you desire from following the treatment advice above, you should see a dermatologist at a clinic like Vail Dermatology. They may be able to prescribe a stronger exfoliating agent or cream to help ease your bumps. You should also see a dermatologist if the area affected by bumps ever becomes overly itchy or swollen. These could be signs that your bumps are not being caused by KP, but rather by an allergic reaction.
The bumps caused by KP may not be pretty, but rest assured that they are not dangerous and are actually very common. Once you find a regimen of moisturizers and exfoliants that works for you, the bumps should subside to a more manageable level.