Papule: Definition, Causes & Treatment

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  • 0:02 What is a Papule?
  • 0:58 Causes
  • 2:16 Treatment Options
  • 3:24 Lesson Summary
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Instructor: Danielle Haak

Danielle has a PhD in Natural Resource Sciences and a MSc in Biological Sciences

A papule is a blemish that forms on the skin. Watch this lesson to learn more about what it looks like, what causes it to form, and how to treat it should one form on you.

What Is a Papule?

Most of us are, unfortunately, familiar with skin blemishes. After all, few people go through their teenage years without at least a pimple or two. But not everyone has encountered another type of skin blemish: the papule.

A papule is small skin lesion, usually less than one centimeter in diameter. The affected area becomes discolored, and the papule is often slightly raised from the surrounding skin. They're usually roundish in shape, though they may develop in other shapes as well, and it's not uncommon for them to form in patches, resembling a rash.

A papule is solid, meaning there is no visible or palpable liquid associated with the blemish. Sometimes the papule may be accompanied by additional skin conditions like crust or scaly patches. Usually they're harmless, though in rare cases they may be indicative of a more serious problem.

Causes of Papules

Well, now you have a pretty good idea of what a papule is, as well as what it looks like, but what causes a papule to develop in the first place? Quite a few skin conditions can lead to the development of papules, but there are three primary causes: dermatitis, chickenpox, and eczema. Let's take a look at each of these.

Dermatitis, or the inflammation of the skin, is the most common cause of papules. Papules occur when the skin is rubbed by something that causes irritation or an allergic reaction, and usually they'll form in patches that resemble a rash. Items such as poison ivy, makeup, and soap can cause papules to form from dermatitis.

Chickenpox is a contagious disease caused by the varicella-zoster virus, which causes papules to break out all over the body. It's common in children but can be more harmful when it occurs in adults. Papules caused by chickenpox form an itchy rash on the surface of the skin.

Eczema, the cause of which is unknown, results in rashes on the skin that can occur in patches or all over the body. Papules will form in patches that are scaly, itchy, and extremely dry. Differing from dermatitis, eczema papules don't form from any type of allergic reaction, nor are they contagious like chickenpox.

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