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Ichthyosis is derived from the Greek word ichthys which means fish.

Ichthyosis is a group of around 20 disorders of keratinization. All these disorders are characterized by persistently dry skin with a fish-like scale.

The widespread dry scaling of ichthyosis can develop due to the production of new skin cells at a rate that is faster than the body can shed (proliferative hyperkeratosis)

Or, it can develop as a result of the production of new skin cells at a normal rate but coupled with a slower than normal rate of shedding the old skin cells (retention hyperkeratosis).

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Ichthyosis affects all races and occurs all over the world. It can be inherited or acquired.

The inherited ichthyosis are due to genetic mutations (changes in the genes) and include ichthyosis vulgaris, lamellar ichthyosis, epidermolytic hyperkeratosis, congenital ichthyosiform erythroderma and X-linked ichthyosis.

Ichthyosis can also be associated with other congenital syndromes in which patients have scaly skin like Netherton Syndrome. Netherton Syndrome is characterized by ichthyosis, erythroderma, atopic features and hair shaft defects.

The acquired ichthyosis are associated with diseases such as of the kidney and thyroid or the used of medications like nicotinic acid.

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The symptoms of ichthyosis include dry skin with a fish-like scale.



There is no definitive cure for ichthyosis and management is mainly supportive and includes the use of:

1. Tar soap and shampoo

Frequent bathing with tar soap and shampoos can help reduce the scaliness on the skin and scalp.


2. Moisturizers

Coconut oil, 100% pure petroleum jelly and mineral oil are some of the moisturizers which are used to prevent dryness and cracking by locking in the moisture. They should be applied while the skin is still moist immediately after taking a bath or shower.


3. Exfoliants

These are products which are applied to remove the dead skin cells and scales on the skin’s surface. Examples include:

a. Urea which exfoliates and hydrates the skin. Examples of urea containing products include Eucerin 10% Urea Cream which contains urea to achieve the dual purposes of moisturization and exfoliation.

b. Alpha hydroxy acids (AHAs) like glycolic acid from sugar cane and lactic acid from milk. Examples of AHA containing products include Amlactin Moisturizing Body Lotion which contains 12% lactic acid, Neostrate Problem Dry Skin which contains 20% AHA to moisturize and soften the dry skin, and Eucerin Plus Cream which also contains AHAs to achieve the dual purposes of moisturization and exfoliation.

c. Pumice stones can be used for physical exfoliation to remove the thickened crusted skin by rubbing gently on wet, scaly skin. The scalp can also be brushed to remove the scales.

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1. Soak in the bath tub to soften the scales before using a loofa sponge to remove them as you bathe.

2. Apply your moisturizer to damp skin ideally within 3 minutes of stepping out of the shower to help lock in as much moisture as possible.

3. Keep the humidity levels in your home or office high by using a humidifier.

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