Table of Contents
Definition of Ichthyosis
Ichthyosis is a genetic disorder of keratinization in which the cells the skin sheds as part of its continual renewal cluster on the skin’s surface in scalelike formations. The lesions itch and flake, and the involved surfaces of the skin become very dry, reddened, and inflamed.
Ichthyosis may affect limited areas of the skin or most of the skin’s surface, depending on which of several gene mutations is responsible for the condition. It is chronic and lifelong, with symptoms first appearing in early childhood. Ichthyosis may be hereditary or acquired. Symptoms of hereditary ichthyosis are present at birth and can be severe, often affecting the eyes and eyelids.
Diagnosis and Treatment
The dermatologist can usually diagnose ichthyosis on the basis of its appearance, though may biopsy several lesions to confirm the diagnosis. Treatment attempts to restore moisture to the skin as well as to accelerate exfoliation (remove dead cells from the skin’s surface). Lotions, creams, and ointments containing lanolin or other emollients help the skin retain moisture, which eases the itching and inflammation. Topical products that contain fruit acids such as alphahydroxy acid or lactic acid help remove dead cells.
Severe ichthyosis may require topical or oral treatment with a retinoid medication such as isotretinoin. The scaly lesions tend to overlap one another and can trap bacteria and other microorganisms normally present on the skin’s surface, causing infection that requires treatment with topical or oral antibiotic medications. An ophthalmologist should provide monitoring and care to detect and promptly treat eye symptoms to prevent permanent damage to the cornea and to preserve vision.
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