Little bumps on the back of the hands are often caused by keratosis pilaris, a common skin condition in which tiny bumps develop on the skin.
These bumps are harmless plugs of dead skin cells and in addition to the backs of the hands, the bumps often develop on the upper arms, the front of the thighs, and cheeks. Keratosis pilaris is frequently seen along with atopic dermatitis and ichthyosis vulgaris.
Causes & Risk Factors
The cause of keratosis pilaris is a buildup of keratin, a protein naturally produced by the body, that forms a plug blocking the opening of hair follicles. The reason this happens is not fully understood. Keratosis pilaris has been associated with mutations of filaggrin, a protein that binds to keratin. It may be genetic. It is not contagious.
Risk factors for developing keratosis pilaris include:
- A family history of the condition
- Dry skin
- Eczema (atopic dermatitis)
- Being overweight or obese
- Ichthyosis vulgaris (a skin condition that causes very dry skin)
- Hay fever
- Having melanoma and taking vemurafenib (Zelboraf), a targeted therapy used to treat melanoma that has spread (metastasized)
What Are Symptoms of Little Bumps on the Back of the Hands?
Symptoms of little bumps on the back of the hands caused by keratosis pilaris include:
- Tiny, rough-feeling bumps on the skin.
- May resemble goosebumps or a plucked chicken
- May also look like small pimples
- Can be grouped or scattered
- May clear during the summer and recur in winter
- May be different colors, including the same color as the patient’s skin, as well as white, red, pinkish purple (on fair skin), and brownish black (on dark skin)
- Often improve with age but may persist into adulthood
- Can worsen during pregnancy
- Skin dryness
- Skin itching
- Skin redness
- Is frequently associated with other skin conditions
- Atopic dermatitis
- Ichthyosis vulgaris
What Is the Treatment for Little Bumps on the Back of the Hands?
Keratosis pilaris is considered a harmless condition that does not require treatment and little bumps on the back of the hands caused by keratosis pilaris may improve on their own without treatment.
Even though treatment is not always needed, patients may have cosmetic concerns and request treatment to diminish skin roughness and redness.
Treatments for keratosis pilaris used to help relieve skin roughness, redness, and dryness include:
- Use of mild soaps or soap-free cleansers
- Moisturizing creams containing urea or lactic acid to relieve itch or dryness
- Avoiding hot baths or showers
- Use of a loofah or at-home microdermabrasion kit for gentle removal of dead skin
- Medications to remove dead skin cells and diminish the appearance of the bumps
- Alpha hydroxyl acid
- Glycolic acid
- Lactic acid
- Retinoids (adapalene, retinol, tazarotene, tretinoin)
- Salicylic acid
- Laser or light treatment may be used to treat keratosis pilaris to reduce the swelling and redness or to improve the skin’s texture and reduce discoloration
Treatments do not cure the condition and it can take time to see results and for the skin to clear. Patients must keep up a consistent skin-care regimen in order to see improvements and for continuing results.
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