Causes of Papules


From the latin “papula,” which means “pimple,” the word “papule” refers to small solid bumps on the skin. The can be differentiated from pustules by the fact that papules contain no pus. They usually present themselves in clusters, most frequently with rashes. They often itch. The scratching this incites makes the elevations red and crusty. Papules may accompany a variety of conditions, some chronic and others acute.

Inflammatory Acne

In contrast to non-inflammatory acne, which includes the typical combination of whiteheads and blackheads, inflammatory acne may be accompanied by papules, nodules or cysts. Papules occur because the follicular wall has been broken. White blood cells invade the area causing inflammation of the pore.


Eczema is much like a chronic allergic reaction on the skin. People with eczema are hypersensitive to allergens so they experience long-term rashes. The skin because dry and scaly. Because it itches, the skin often becomes quite red and, eventually, thickens. Eczema most often affects the sensitive skin of infants but may affect adults as well. Usually, people with eczema have a family history of the skin condition in addition to other allergic conditions like asthma.

Contact Dermatitis

Contact dermatitis is a rash that forms as a result of direct contact with an irritant. The most common type of dermatitis is called “irritant dermatitis.” This means that the skin has come in direct contact with chemicals, from acid to detergent, and become inflamed because of it. Usually, this type of dermatitis is instant and looks something like a burn. A slightly less common version is “allergic contact dermatitis.” This arises when you come in contact with something you are allergic to. In this case, inflammation might have a delayed onset. The rash that arises from poison ivy, for instance, fits under this heading. Along with papules, skin may sting and become scaly.


Papules are a major symptom of chickenpox, the classic children’s disease. In addition to papules, symptoms of chickenpox include loss of appetite, soreness and headache. In children, this virus is usually not very serious; however, in adults it can be quite dangerous.

Lichen Planus

Of unknown cause, lichen planus is characterized by a rash that may affect the skin or the inside of the mouth. Possibly related to an immune reaction, papules usually appear in small clusters on the wrists, legs, trunk or genitals. They are often larger than your average papule and are quite itchy.


Some conditions, called “papuloses,” explicitly cause papules. One example of these is lymphomatoid papulosis (LyP). This is a chronic skin disease that causes recurring clusters of papules to appear on the torso and limbs. With time, these papules heal on their own but may leave scars. Another papulosis is bowenoid papulosis. This affects the genitalia of males and females alike, typically young, sexually active people. The bumps are usually visible but may be undetectable, particularly for women who get papules on the cervix. This may be an early form of cancer caused by HPV 16 or 18, both high-risk versions of human papilloma virus. A much more rare papulosis is clear cell papulosis. It generally occurs in healthy young children, with clusters of papules forming on their lower bodies.

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