Milia

Updated: Mar 10, 2017
  • Author: Charles M G Archer, MBBS, MRCP(UK); Chief Editor: William D James, MD  more...
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Overview

Background

Milia are very common, benign, keratin-filled cysts (see the image below).

Milia in a week-old infant. Milia in a week-old infant.

Primary milia are typically seen in infants but also may occur in children and adults. Secondary milia develop after trauma to the skin, such as after burns (eg, sunburns), dermabrasion, or in blistering disorders. Milia en plaque is a rare inflammatory condition characterized by plaques of milia in the periauricular area. Multiple eruptive milia is a condition characterized by the sudden development of crops of milia over the course of weeks to months.

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Pathophysiology

Milia are tiny epidermoid cysts. The cysts may be derived from the pilosebaceous follicle. Primary milia arise on facial skin bearing vellus hair follicles. Secondary milia result from damage to the pilosebaceous unit.

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Epidemiology

Frequency

Primary milia in newborns are so common that they can be considered normal (occurring in approximately half of all infants). Multiple eruptive milia and milia en plaque are rare entities.

Race

No racial predilection is recognized for milia.

Sex

Sexual prevalence is equal for primary and secondary milia. Eruptive milia and milia en plaque occur more frequently in women.

Age

Milia occur in persons of all ages but are typically found in infants.

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Prognosis

Milia seen in infancy tend to spontaneously disappear within the first few weeks of life. Milia in older children and adults tend to persist.

Secondary milia arising from blisters rarely resolve.

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Patient Education

Patients or their parents can be taught how to treat milia with a needle (see Treatment).

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