What is Ichthyosis?
Ichthyosis is not a single disease but a variety of conditions that lead to dry, flaky, and itchy skin. The name is derived from the Greek word for fish as the skin looks like fish scales. It is a condition that does not have a permanent cure but treatment helps in bringing relief from the symptoms. People who have this condition are unable to retain moisture in their skin and lose the protective barrier. Most types of this condition are rare but the below two are the common types of ichthyosis:
- Ichthyosis Vulgaris which affects 1 in 250 people
- X-linked recessive ichthyosis which affects 1 in 6000 people
The most common symptom of this skin condition is the skin is dry and scaly. These appear only on some parts of the body like the trunk, buttocks, stomach, face, scalp, and legs. The other symptoms are:
- They manifest themselves more during the dry and cold weather than in warmer weather.
- The scales are dark brown, white, or grey and may also have thin or thick cracks through them.
- Redness or blisters appear on the skin
- The skin can sometimes peel and lead to pain
- There can be itchiness on some parts, like behind the knees, armpits, stomach, scalp, etc.
- There can be cracks on the soles of the feet and palms of the hand.
- The skin becomes tight so movement is difficult.
- Eczema may also appear in people with ichthyosis.
Who is at Risk?
Ichthyosis risk factors are high in:
- People who have a close family member with this skin condition. Hence it can be termed as a genetic condition. Ichthyosis Vulgaris is a type that is caused due to gene mutation and is inherited from both or one parent.
- People who are suffering from certain diseases like multiple myeloma, sarcoidosis, lymphoma are more prone to this.
- People who use harsh cosmetics like soaps, detergents.
- People who use soaps that contain strong perfumes.
- People who have the habit of taking hot and lengthy baths.
- People who consume certain medications can also suffer from this condition.
Causes of ichthyosis can be either inherited or acquired.
- It is called inherited when it runs in the family and is caused due to gene mutations. The changes in the genes affect the proteins that keep the skin moist and protect it. It also affects the new skin cells formation and shedding of dead skin cells.
- It can also happen due to spontaneous mutation where parents don’t have it, but the child has this disease.
- It can be caused due to underactive thyroid gland, kidney disease, cancer, HIV infection, etc and is called acquired ichthyosis.
- Cancer drugs, drugs to treat HIV infections, medicines to treat high cholesterol can also cause ichthyosis.
How is Ichthyosis diagnosed?
Most of the time, this skin condition is mistaken as dry skin and most cases go undiagnosed. If you see any of the above symptoms and applying moisturizer twice a day does not help then it is recommended that you see a dermatologist. The doctor does an ichthyosis diagnosis by:
- Making note of the family history, medical history, and any medications. Talking about the symptoms and when it first appeared.
- Based on the type of ichthyosis, a saliva sample is taken to test for gene changes.
- A skin sample may be taken for biopsy to confirm the diagnosis and also rule out other conditions like psoriasis.
How is Ichthyosis Treated?
There is no ichthyosis treatment for complete cure but it helps to manage the symptoms of dry and scaly skin.
- Topical treatment by using rich creams that can aid in keeping the skin moist. This should be applied right after taking a bath when the skin is moist. That helps to hold the moisture.
- Patients are advised to remove dead skin using a pumice stone or use products that can remove dead skin.
- For severe dryness, the doctor may recommend oral medications.
- If you are depressed due to this condition and have affected your self-esteem the dermatologist may recommend you to a therapist.
Ichthyosis is not a life-threatening condition but it can significantly affect the person’s confidence due to the appearance of the skin. Talk to our expert dermatologists at Cure.fit to get relief from dry skin as there is no Ichthyosis cure.
How can Ichthyosis be Prevented?
Prevention of Ichthyosis is not possible, especially those types that are genetically inherited. For the acquired types, management of dry skin can be done by:
- Hydrating the skin using a proper moisturizer.
- Take warm baths instead of hot ones.
- Use mild soaps and detergents so that it does not leave the skin dry.
- Avoid using cosmetics that lead to dry skin.
- Speak to your doctor if certain medications are causing it.