Ichthyosis Vulgaris - Symptoms, Risk factors and Treatment

Ichthyosis Vulgaris is a skin condition in which the skin surface becomes thick, scaly, and dry. Mostly it occurs genetically, but one can acquire it as a side effect of certain drugs or medical conditions. Until now, there is no cure for ichthyosis Vulgaris. It can be only managed by using exfoliants and moisturizers. 

 

Ichthyosis Vulgaris is a kind of ichthyosis that interferes with the ability of the skin to shed dead skin cells, leading to thick and dry skin. It causes the skin to become scaly and dry- a condition known as xerosis. Mostly, it starts in childhood, between the age of 2 to 5. Often, it is also called fish scale disease because it resembles the fish skin that contains the scales.

 

To diagnose this skin condition, the healthcare provider may look closely at your skin, take some samples for biopsy testing, and perform genetic testing. Sometimes it remains undiagnosed because the symptoms are mistaken with extremely dry skin. Mostly its symptoms are mild and are related to other skin conditions like eczema.  

 

Symptoms 

 

Ichthyosis interferes with the normal shedding of skin. It causes your skin cells to accumulate, leading to thick and dry skin due to excessive build-up of keratin protein on the skin. It may show other symptoms like;

 

  • Dry skin 

  • Scaly skin

  • The occurrence of tile-like, small scales on the skin

  • Scales varying in color. They can be of white, dirty gray, or brown color.

  • The skin may have darker-colored scales typically on darker skin.

  • Flaky scalp

  • Deep and painful cracks in your skin due to thick skin

 

 

Sometimes it remains undiagnosed because the symptoms are mistaken with extremely dry skin. Mostly its symptoms are mild and are related to other skin conditions like eczema. 

  

Causes 

 

Ichthyosis mostly occurs because of the defect in the gene that encodes for filaggrin- a protein that helps create the natural barrier for the skin. If a proper barrier is not present on the skin, it struggles to maintain the right pH and moisture, eventually leading to thick and dry skin. You can inherit this abnormal gene from your parents. Mostly when you inherit from both the parents, the symptoms are severe. Whereas if you inherit it from one parent, they may remain mild. Children born with defective genes may have healthy skin at the time of birth. But it may start to become dry and thick in the initial years of life. 

 

 

If ichthyosis is not due to an inherited defective gene, it can be referred to as acquired ichthyosis. It can occur due to the use of certain medications, or have certain medical conditions like;

 

  • Altered thyroid function

  • Hodgkin lymphoma

  • HIV

  • Sarcoidosis- an inflammatory condition that affects the whole body. But most commonly affects the lymph glands and the lungs.

  • Having organ failure, especially liver and kidney failure

  • Taking drugs like targeted cancer therapy drugs

  • Taking drugs that contain nicotinic acid

  • Consuming medications that contain kava

  • Hydroxyurea 

 

Complications 

 

In certain cases, ichthyosis can cause;

 

Overheating due to thick skin, which does not let your body sweat and cool itself. However, in some cases, hyperhidrosis may occur

 

Secondary skin infections due to splitting and cracking of the skin

 

Prevention 

 

To prevent it, you must apply the moisturizers on time. Keep your skin moisturized. Make sure you apply a cream or moisturizer that is gentle to your skin and keeps your skin hydrated. Since dry skin can worsen the condition, keeping it moisturized eventually helps in lowering ichthyosis exacerbations. You can also apply oils like olive oil or coconut oil that keep it moisturized for long times.

 

Take baths for a short time and use warm water instead of hot. Using hot water turns your skin dry and flaky, eventually exacerbating the symptoms.  

 

Conclusion 

 

Ichthyosis Vulgaris is a skin condition in which the skin surface becomes thick, scaly, and dry. Mostly it occurs genetically, but one can acquire it as a side effect of certain drugs or medical conditions. Until now, there is no cure for ichthyosis Vulgaris. It can be only managed by using exfoliants and moisturizers.


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