For years, I experienced keratosis pilaris without knowing what it was. I suffered embarrassment. I suffered discomfort. I have a scar from the experience. Now, with maturity, I offer hope for those dealing with this malady.
Funny Little Bumps
Starting when I was a kid, I notice I had bumpy, rough skin on my upper arms. I was so self conscious about it. I didn’t know what it was. I had no name for it, nor did I know anyone else who had it. I longed for smooth skin. I thought I suffered alone. Whenever I wore short sleeved shirts, I thought everyone else noticed negatively. I hoped for some kind of treatment or cure, but never had the courage to ask at a doctor appointment. Plus, when I did have a doctor’s attention, I always wanted to discuss other things. It never came up, and I certainly didn’t make appointments just for that skin. I had other skin concerns, so my keratosis pilaris seemed so unimportant comparatively.
At nineteen I landed a job as a receptionist at a dermatology office. Part of my job was coding for medical billing. I learned fast a slew of dermatological conditions – the minor, the major, the fatal. I didn’t exactly know what keratosis pilaris was, although I coded for it all the time. After working there for a bit, I understood that’s what I had on my arms. I also knew there wasn’t much treatment available, at least back then, and it wasn’t something to worry about. After looking in the eyes of patients who just received the diagnosis of melanoma or Kaposi’s sarcoma, I really didn’t care about my keratosis pilaris anymore.
After about a year at the doctor’s office, I developed one of the relatively serious complications that can come from keratosis pilaris. One particular spot developed some sort of problem, and scarred over. I was the only patient we had who had that response, so I knew it was rare. I still have a dark, shiny scar on my left arm all these years later. I’ve had people tell me to get that mole looked at; that it might be cancer. It certainly erased all other concerns I had about my remaining keratosis pilaris. No matter how rough or unpleasant, it wasn’t nearly as noticeable as That Scar.
A few years later, I was revealing to other employees that I too experienced keratosis pilaris. I pulled up my sleeve to show them what it looked like. To my shock, it was gone. My skin was smooth. Somehow, it had cleared without my noticing it. No treatment, no explanation: I’m not even sure when, other than after I scarred from it. It can and does clear on its own, even amongst those who suffer the worst from it.