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Definition

Ichthyosis is a skin disorder which causes the formation of dry, fish-like scales on the skin's surface. Ichthyosis often begins in early childhood and is usually life long. Most types of ichthyosis cause quite serious skin problems, but fortunately they're very rare. The most common sort of ichthyosis, known as ichthyosis vulgaris, is usually much less harmful.

Types of ichthyosis-

  • Ichthyosis vulgaris
  • X-linked recessive ichthyosis
  • Non-bullous ichthyosiform erythroderma and lamellar ichthyosis
  • Bullous ichthyosis
  • Harlequin ichthyosis
  • lamellar icthyosys
  • Netherton's syndrome
  • Sjögren-Larsson syndrome
  • Conradi-Hünermann syndrome, Neutral lipid storage disease and KID syndrome

Causes

The cause of inherited ichthyosis may be due to an abnormal protein in the skin or due to an abnormality of lipids, which act as a 'cement' in the skin. In some of the disorders the basic abnormality is recognised, but in others it is unknown. Hopefully, through research, we will understand more about these disorders with the development of more specific treatments and better prenatal diagnosis by molecular genetic testing.  People can develop ichthyosis as a side effect of diseases such as lymphoma, multiple myeloma, AIDS, a thyroid disorder, or sarcoidosis.

Symptoms

Ichthyosis vulgaris is characterized by severely dry, scaly skin. The scales are small, polygonal in shape and range in color from white to dirty gray to brown. Furthermore, symptoms of Ichthyosis may vary on an individual basis for each patient. Only your doctor can provide adequate diagnosis of symptoms and whether they are indeed symptoms of Ichthyosis.
Common symptoms include:

  • Skin is dry, thickened, scaly and darker than normal skin. It has the appearance of fish scales
  • Areas most commonly affected are your thighs, arms and backs of hands
  • Your skin can become tight and may crack, burn and sting
  • Symptoms become worse in dry, low humidity weather

Treatment

Ichthyosis and is treated with lotions or ointments to soften the skin and soothe the itching. Special gels called keratolytics, which include salicylic acid, lactic acid, or urea, help to remove the dry scales on the surface of the skin. The gel also contains an agent to moisturize the skin underneath.

Treatment of ichthyosis is topical and aims to reduce scaly build up and to moisturize the skin.  Severe cases of Ichthyosis can result in extreme dryness and scaling, causing pain and bleeding.  For the most part, Ichthyosis is perceived more by patients as a nuisance than a disorder.
In severe cases of ichthyosis, oral medicine can be helpful inrlessening the scale, redness and itch. The tablets come from Vitamin A. Taking high doses of Vitamin A can cause side effects such as dry eyes, lips and nose, nose bleeds, headaches, nausea, high blood cholesterol and birth defects if taken during pregnancy.

Twice daily applications of an over-the-counter product that contains salicylic acid may help. Salicylic acid helps the skin shed its dead skin cells.

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