Ichthyosis is a group of 26 skin diseases derived from the Ancient Greek word “ichthys” meaning “fish” because of the way the symptoms manifest as dry, hard and scaly skin. Ichthyosis vulgaris is the most common occurring (95% of cases) and is among a group of inherited ichthyoses.
The other forms are lamellar ichthyosis, epidermolytic hyperkeratosis, and X-linked ichthyosis. Non-inherited ichthyosis is acquired in adulthood usually by way of systemic disease (cancers, lymphoma, HIV) or via medications. The inherited forms of ichthyosis are the result of genetic mutations. The abnormal gene causes irregularities in the normal lifecycle of skin: reproduction of new skin cells may outpace shedding of old dry cells or reproduction may continue as normal but the shedding is slower resulting in the build-up dry flaky skin. Sufferers of ichthyosis live normal lifespans but those with severe conditions will have complications such as: overheating (the body lacks the ability to sufficiently cool itself by sweating), limited movement in joints (the dry scaly nature of the skin makes it painful to articulate the joints properly), secondary (the constant splitting and cracking of the skin leaves it open to infection), impaired sensory input (excess skin production over the eyes and ears).
While there is no cure for ichthyosis, there are treatments to reduce discomfort such as moisturising and exfoliating the skin as regularly as possible using special techniques and emollient and humectant creams. It is recommended to apply these lotions within minutes of showering or bathing to trap the maximum amount of moisture. The use of a pumice stone on wet skin to help remove hardened crusty skin is also advised.
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