What causes keratosis pilaris?

hands with keratosis pilarisKeratosis pilaris, sometimes known as ‘chicken skin’ is a skin condition that affects many people all around the world. Although science has yet to find a complete cure, we do know what causes keratosis pilaris, and who is likely to suffer from it.

It’s estimated that keratosis pilaris affects between 40 and 50% of the adult population worldwide. However, it’s far more prevalent in adolescents, with a reported 50 to 80% of teenagers suffering from this unsightly condition. Research has shown that it’s largely hereditary, and you’re more likely to be a sufferer if your mom or dad has, or had, the condition. It’s common in all races, although people of Celtic origin have a higher chance of being a sufferer, and females are more susceptible to the condition than males. While babies can be sufferers, it usually starts in early childhood, and gets worse in adolescence as the child enters puberty. Luckily a lot of people report that it does improve after puberty, sometimes even disappearing completely during adulthood, and although some people do continue to suffer throughout their 40’s and 50’s, it’s very uncommon in older people.

The causes of keratosis pilaris are all to do with the production of keratin, the creamy colored substance which is found in the outer layer of the skin. Mainly made of protein, keratin is a component of skin, nails and hair, however when the body produces too much keratin, it can cause the skin to thicken. The excess keratin has the effect of blocking the hair follicles with plugs of skin, and leads to raised bumps on the affected areas. Occasionally it will prevent the hairs from exiting the follicles, meaning that the hairs curl up inside the follicle and cause inflammation in the surrounding skin. When this happens the bumps can become red, inflamed and itchy.

These hard, spiky bumps often go hand in hand with other dry skin conditions, such as eczema and ichthyosis, and anyone who suffers from these will often find that it makes the rash caused by keratosis pilaris worse. On the positive side, while keratosis pilaris can be unsightly and often itchy, it is generally harmless, and there are many things you can do to improve the condition, such as using a regular program of exfoliation and moisturizing. If you are a sufferer, it may help to consult a health care professional as there are some treatments on the market which, while not specifically formulated for treating keratosis pilaris, have been found to be successful in alleviating the condition.

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