Ichthyosis

Ichthyosis is a dry skin condition. There are two general types:

  • Causes

    Inherited ichthyosis is caused by a genetic defect that is passed from parent to child or that occurs on its own.


    Acquired ichthyosis is relatively rare, but may be caused by any of the following:

    • Leprosy—extremely rare in the United States
    • Underactive thyroid

    • Lymphoma—Hodgkin's
      and
      Non-Hodgkin's
    • Sarcoidosis
    • AIDS
    • Multiple myeloma
    • Certain drugs, such as nicotinic acid, triparanol, and butyrophenones

  • Definition


    Ichthyosis is a dry skin condition. There are two general types:

    • Inherited ichthyosis—dryness and scaling of the skin due to hereditary factors
    • Acquired ichthyosis—thickening and scaling of the skin that is associated with certain medical disorders

  • Diagnosis


    You will be asked about your symptoms and medical history. A physical exam will be done. Rarely, blood tests or a

    may be required.

    Your bodily fluids and tissues may be tested. This can be done with:

    • Blood tests
    • Skin biopsy
    Skin Biopsy
    Skin proceedure
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  • Prevention


    There are no guidelines for preventing the development of ichthyosis. However, steps to prevent this condition from getting worse include:

    • Bathing less often
    • Applying unscented moisturizer regularly and frequently, especially in winter
    • Using only mild soap

    • Avoiding:

      • Harsh soaps
      • Soaps with scents or perfumes
      • Skin contact with detergents
      • Cold, dry weather when possible

  • Risk Factors

    Factors that may increase your risk of ichthyosis include:

    • Family member with ichthyosis
    • Certain diseases

    Ichthyosis may be triggered by:

    • Cold weather
    • Frequent or lengthy bathing, especially in hot water
    • Harsh soaps or detergents
    • Soaps or lotions containing perfumes

  • Symptoms


    Ichthyosis can develop on any part of the body, but most often occurs on the legs, arms, or trunk. The symptoms can vary from mild to severe. In severe cases, the condition may be disfiguring. Symptoms may include:

    • Dry, flaking skin
    • Scaling of skin that gives skin the appearance of fish scales
    • Shedding of layers of the skin
    • Itching of skin
    • In severe cases, scarring and/or infection due to rubbing and scratching of scales or blisters


    With certain rare types of inherited ichthyosis, symptoms:

    • Appear immediately at birth
    • Are extremely severe, covering the entire body
    • Cause severe complications or death

  • Treatment

    Since there is no cure for ichthyosis, treatment consists of managing the symptoms. Most treatment is aimed at keeping the skin moist. In severe cases, medication may be prescribed. For the acquired form, treating the underlying condition may also help lessen the symptoms of the ichthyosis.