Definition of Milia
Tiny white spots on a baby's face, called milia, may cause some alarm to first-time parents, but are completely harmless. Sometimes referred to as "baby acne," milia is actually unrelated to acne and occurs in about half of all newborns, according to the Mayo Clinic. Adults occasionally get milia, too, which, while at times may be unsightly, are completely harmless.
Milia are caused by a build up of excess dead keratinous cells and fluid that become trapped in tiny pockets under the surface of the skin. Occasionally, inflammation or injury can also cause milia to occur. Milia occur naturally and there is little that can be done to prevent them.
Milia are tiny cysts that appear as whitish dots or bumps just under the surface of the skin. They usually occur on the face, particularly the nose, cheeks and chin, and sometimes the upper trunk and arms. Milia can occur on the gums or roof of the mouth and are then referred to as Epstein's pearls. The area around the milia can become red from irritation, but the center will always remain white.
If parents are concerned about their baby's complexion, or for an occurrence of milia lasting more than three months, they should consult their child's pediatrician. An accurate diagnosis can usually be made by simply examining the occurrence of milia on the skin. Generally, no testing is required. Adults with milia that want them removed should consult a dermatologist for a course of treatment.
In infants, no treatment is necessary, as the milia usually only last a few weeks and will eventually go away on their own. During the occurrence, it's a good idea to keep the baby's face clean. Dry the area gently by patting without rubbing. For both children and adults, do not attempt to squeeze or scrub the bumps, as this will only increase irritation and can damage the skin. Lotions and creams should be avoided.
For adults wanting to improve their appearance, persistent milia can be removed by a dermatologist. The milia can either be lanced with the tip of a hypodermic needle and extracted or reduced using electrical impulses. These techniques usually result in the complete removal of the milia without scarring.
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