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.

Ichthyosis Treatment

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.

5 replies
  1. Retinoids help
    Retinoids help says:

    I have ichthyosis and will say that retinoids have helped me greatly. I was prescribed them because I had severe scaling of the skin. Do note that if you are pregnant you will not be able to take these and there are some risks associated with taking them, but you will have to decide if that is a risk you are willing to take. For me, I have not had any side effects of the retinoids. It has effected the scaling of my skin and my skin does appear to look better for me.

  2. Research freak
    Research freak says:

    I have done much research on this because my son has ichthyosis. It is something that he was born with. He has very dry skin that is scaly and we have to keep his well moisturized. I wanted to share with everyone that sometimes the eyes and ears are effected by ichthyosis. Skin can build up over the ears and the eyes, which will cause impairments in hearing and seeing. It is really scary to think about.

  3. Candy Crush
    Candy Crush says:

    Since the skin is dry and scaly with ichthyosis, can you use Vaseline on the skin to really moisturize it? My baby has ichthyosis and I want to use something that is rich and creamy on his skin that is gentle as well. I do not think that baby lotion has enough power to it. My son is only 6 months old so it is important to me to find something that is very safe to use on him.

  4. Kalies
    Kalies says:

    I suffer from ichthyosis. It is not the most pleasant skin condition to have. I have found that I do not sweat as much due to the fact that I am not able to. Many do not realize this but normal body temperature could be effected, which will reduce the ability to sweat. Do not let the body get overheated, as this is very dangerous, especially for children. Do not allow yourself to be out in the sun for extended periods of time and always wear clothing that is loose fitting. Should you find yourself or someone that suffers from ichthyosis, and they have become overheated, get them cooled down immediately by using cool clothes on the body. Do note that I have had the condition since I was a child, and if I do not keep my skin moisturized daily, I risk getting cracks on my skin, which really hurt. Especially when they are in a crease. I lotion up at least three times a day. I have to or else my skin just looks and feels awful. I have to stay on top of it to keep it feeling somewhat good. Granted it does not always look the best, but I am doing the best that I can for my skin to keep it from appearing to be all cracked and dry.

  5. manage it
    manage it says:

    My sister has ichthyosis and has found ways of managing it. She applied a prescribed ointment nightly after her shower. She also lotions up a few times a day. She exfoliates daily with a gentle skin exfoliator. One tip that I can offer everyone from her is taking baths in salt water. Soak for as long as you can. It really has helped my sister out greatly. It works well on the scaling. She will often soak in salt water a few times a week. I am not sure how long she will soak, but often times she just lights a few candles, turns on some music, and unwinds from the day as she works at softening the scales on her skin. She works very closely with her dermatologist so they can keep the ichthyosis under control. Since she has started doing the salt soaks, her skin has improved greatly.


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