Follicular hyperkeratosis is a skin condition that involves the hair follicles containing an excessive amount of keratin. It is categorized under a collection of disorders referred to as hyperkeratosis, which denotes a disorder concerning the excessive production of keratin. Follicular hyperkeratosis is also known as phrynoderma, as it concerns infection of the skin.
The alternate term of follicular hyperkeratosis, phrynoderma, was coined in 1933 as a description of the skin of laborers, which was thought to resemble that of a toad. Thus, the terms "phryno" and "derma," meaning toad and skin, respectively, are combined for naming this condition. Later in the century, however, the diagnosis became more widely accepted. "Follicular" denotes the type of hyperkeratosis, which is the variant affecting the hair follicles; "hyper" means excessive; and "keratosis" indicates a skin disease caused by the lack of keratin.
A protein substance found in the outer layer of human skin, keratin is the main structural component of hair. It appears as one of the components of sebum, an oily substance that provides the skin with natural lubrication. An excessive amount, however, creates a plugging-up effect on the hair follicles. The result is a collection of rough, cone-shaped bumps on the scalp. These bumps are usually encrusted with sebum, which gives them a whitish appearance. Accompanying clogged follicles is a hardening of the skin, particularly at areas such as the hands, ears and feet.
Excess keratin, which results in follicular hyperkeratosis, is commonly linked with a deficiency in vitamins A, B complex, C and E. This nutritional deficiency denotes an inadequate or unbalanced diet, which is why it is more common in poorer countries or among poorer populations. Follicular hyperkeratosis, however, can occur in anyone who has a calorie-restricted diet or avoids fruits and vegetables altogether. Also, in some developed countries, the condition might occur if there is a faulty absorption of nutrient materials in the body, which can be triggered by gastrointestinal conditions and surgical procedures such as colectomy, pancreatic insufficiency and small-bowel bypass surgery.
There is no cure for follicular hyperkeratosis. Treatments exist, however, for reasonable control of the disease or relief of symptoms. Physicians usually recommend diets abundant in vitamins A, B complex, C and E. This includes foods such as carrots, eggs, fish, oils, and yellow and green leafy vegetables. Other forms of treatments include vitamin supplements and skin moisturizers.