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Skin Care and Diseases

Tiny bumps on upper arms

08/13/2000

Question:

I`m a 24-year old caucasian male. Ever since I can remember I`ve had tiny, raised, somewhat red bumps on the tricep area of both my upper arms. The bumps don`t extend past my elbows nor do they cover the bicep region or reach my shoulders. They seem confined to that particular area. I have not noticed the bumps on any other part of my body. The bumps do not crust or form heads and like I said I`ve had them for a long time. Though I have mild allergies (grass, molds, pollens) I am not aware of any problems with different types of clothing material. I should probably mention I was on accutane 6 years ago which did clear up my facial acne, but left my skin a little dry. I don`t remember if it had any effect on the arm bumps. I`ve been told these bumps could be due to a vitamin deficiency. Any suggestions?

Answer:

Your story and the response of the little lesions on the upper arm to Accutane suggests that you have keratosis pilaris. This is a familial disorder of mild keratinization that can involve the backs of the arms and may extend to lateral thighs and occasionally be more extensive. It is a nuisance disorder and usually responds well to one of the alphahydroxy acids topically in as little as 5% concentration. These are available over the counter. Just ask your pharmacist for the various tradenames. I would suggest you use that several times a day to moistened skin.

Some physicians might treat you with a retinoid or vitamin A, but such systemic medications should only be used under the guidance of a physician.

Since your process has only been described, I would urge you to see your dermatologist who can make an expert evaluation of your process and talk about appropriate therapy.

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Response by:

Charles L Heaton, MD
Professor
College of Medicine
University of Cincinnati