Medical questions & health advice by board certified doctors
"What are the small bumps on the back of my arms?"
I have a lot of small, red and flesh colored bumps on the backs of my arms. Is this a rash? It doesn't hurt but looks weird. Should I see a dermatologist?
It sounds like you have keratosis pilaris. This is a totally benign condition in which the skin produces excess keratin (the protein that coats the surface of the skin). The excess keratin plugs up the pores in the skin, leading to this appearance of red bumpy skin. Keratosis pilaris is actually an inherited condition, and it is very common for members of a single family all to have it. It most often affects the upper outer arms, just as you describe, but it can also causes bumps on the thighs and buttocks and, rarely, other locations. Sometimes keratosis pilaris is confused with a skin infection, such as folliculitis. However, the main difference is that keratosis pilaris does not causes inflammed or tender skin, and it tends to be more uniform with numerous small bumps, where as folliculitis causes tender, but less numerous and more irregularly distributed bumps. Because it is benign, keratosis pilaris does not require treatment. However, if you find it unsightly, you can try gentle exfoliation of the affected area to remove the keratin plugs. If this does not work, you can talk to your primary care doctor or your dermatologist about stronger exfoliating creams if you wish.