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. KP is thought to be partly inherited (genetic) in origin. About 50%-70% of patients with KP have a known genetic predisposition and a high rate of affected family members. Many individuals have a strong family history of KP or "chicken skin." The underlying cause may be partly related to hypersensitivity reactions and overall dryness of the skin. KP is also closely related to ichthyosis vulgaris, dry skin, allergies, seasonal allergies, rhinitis, asthma, eczema, and atopic dermatitis.
The bumps in KP 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.
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