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Milia

Definition

Milia are tiny white bumps or small cysts on the skin.

Causes, incidence, and risk factors

Milia occur when dead skin becomes trapped in small pockets at the surface of the skin or mouth. They are common in newborn infants.

Similar cysts are seen in the mouths of newborn infants. In this case, they are called Epstein's pearls. These cysts also go away on their own.

Adults may develop milia on the face. The bumps and cysts also occur on parts of the body that are inflammed or injured. Irritation of the skin by rough sheets or clothing may cause mild reddening around the bump, but the central portion remains white.

Irritated milia are sometimes incorrectly referred to as "baby acne" (although it is not actually a form of acne).

Symptoms

  • Whitish, pearly bump in the skin of newborns, typically across cheeks, nose, and chin
  • Whitish, pearly bump on gums or roof of mouth

Signs and tests

The doctor can usually diagnose milia just by examining the skin. No testing is necessary.

Treatment

In children, no treatment is needed.

A doctor may remove milia in adults who wish to improve their appearance.

Expectations (prognosis)

In children, milia usually disappear after the first several weeks of life without treatment and without any lasting effects.

In adults, milia removal can usually be done without scarring.

Complications

There are usually no complications.

Prevention

There is no known prevention.

References

Morelli JG. Diseases of the neonate. In: Kliegman RM, Behrman RE, Jenson HB, Stanton BF, eds. Nelson Textbook of Pediatrics. 18th ed. Philadelphia, Pa: Saunders Elsevier;2007:chap 646.


Review Date: 6/2/2009
Reviewed By: Neil K. Kaneshiro, MD, MHA, Clinical Assistant Professor of Pediatrics, University of Washington School of Medicine. Also reviewed by David Zieve, MD, MHA, Medical Director, A.D.A.M., Inc.
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