Dermatology/White bumps


I have these flat, somewhere inbetween small & medium size white bumps that are irregularly shaped & painless. They are sometimes oval shaped, sometimes a half oval-half circle shape & they do not itch. They do become red, inflamed & painful cystic like bumps when met with excessive friction from clothing. Some of them have a small, pin prick esque blackhead in the middle, others do not. These bumps are all over my shoulder blades, shoulders, & a few are on my arms. What are they?

Keratosis pilaris is a common skin condition in which a protein in the skin called keratin forms hard plugs within hair follicles.

Causes, incidence, and risk factors

Keratosis pilaris is harmless (benign). It seems to run in families.  It is more common in people who have very dry skin, or who have atopic dermatitis (eczema).

The condition is generally worse in winter and often clears in the summer.


Symptoms include:

Small bumps that look like "goose bumps" on the back of the upper arms, shoulders and sometimes thighs.

Bumps feel like very rough sandpaper

Skin-colored bumps are the size of a grain of sand

Slight pinkness may be seen around some bumps

Bumps may appear on the face and be mistaken for acne

Signs and tests

Your doctor or nurse can usually diagnose this condition by looking at your skin. Tests are usually not needed.


Treatment may include:

Moisturizing lotions to soothe the skin and help it look better

Skin creams that contain urea, lactic acid, glycolic acid, salicylic acid, tretinoin, or vitamin D

Steroid creams to reduce redness

Improvement often takes months and the bumps are likely to come back.

Expectations (prognosis)

Keratosis pilaris may fade slowly with age.

Calling your health care provider

Call your doctor or nurse if the bumps are bothersome and do not get better with lotions you buy without a prescription.


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Michael S. Fisher, <B>Ph.D., M.D.</B>


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