What is Ichthyosis?
Ichthyosis is a skin disorder that is characterised by dry, scaly skin. The skin can be either thick or thin. It effects people of all ages, races, and gender. It is usually seen at birth or within the first year and will be present for the rest of life. People who are effected by any type of ichthyosis have a normal life span.
There are many different types of ichthyosis. Those include:
- Ichthyosis Vulgaris- The most common form of ichthyosis, effecting about 1 in 250 people. Usually develops between ages 3 months and 5 years of age. Skin is very painful when inflamed and red. Cracked skin can produce bloody cuts. Over half those that suffer with this form have some type of atopic disease such as allergies or eczema. Cases can be mild or severe. It effects all parts of the body, including the face and neck. It is often associated with atopic dermatitis.
- Lamellar Ichthyosis- This rare skin disorder effects 1 in 600,000 people. Scaling skin tends to form around the joints, such as the groin, armpit, the neck and inside the elbow. The appearance of lamellar ichthyosis looks like shiny petroleum jelly on the skin. The eyelids and mouth may look forced open due to the fact that the skin is very tight. It is not known to be painful in children. It can be associated with mutation in transglutaminase 1 gene.
- Epidermolytic Hyperkeratosis- This rare skin disorder effects 1 in 250,000 people. It is present at birth and the infant will have very red skin and severe blisters with moist skin. The blisters may have a foul odor. After a few days after birth, the skin can become thick with scaling. The infant is put at risk for developing infections on the skin, and has the risk of becoming dehydrated.
- Congenital Ichthyosiform Erythroderma- This type of skin disorder effects 1 in 200,000 to 300,000 persons in the United States. However, those in Norway are more effected by it with 1 in 90,000 having it. Skin will be red with white scales. The eyelids and lips might turn outward, and those effected could have thickening of the skin on the palms and the soles. It is caused by genetic abnormality that effects the shedding of the skin.
- X-linked Ichthyosis- This skin condition is a hereditary deficiency of the steroid sulfatase enzyme. It effects 1 in 2,000 to 1 in 6,000 males. Scaling of the skin will be seen primarily on the trunk, neck and lower extremities. This could cause corneal opacities and is associated with testicular disease.
Several hours each day may need to be devoted the skin if ichthyosis is present in an individual. Daily, a person will need to take a shower or a bath. The skin should be exfoliated on a daily basis, and moisturised well. Moisturising ointments or creams may need to be prescribed by a dermatologist for the individual. Oral retinoids can be prescribed to reduce scaling. If a secondary infection occurs on the skin, oral antibiotics will need to be prescribed.
Tips that will help keep the skin looking and feeling its best include applying a good quality lotion within 3 minutes of bathing. Apply to wet skin to keep moisture trapped into the skin. Products that contain lactic acid, alpha hydroxy acids and urea will help to keep skin not only moisturised but also exfoliated. Rubbing a wet pumice stone over crusty scales on the skin can help to remove them. Should there be scales on the scalp, brushing wet hair gently will aid in removing the scales.