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Ichthyosis is a long-term condition that results in persistently thick, dry, 'fish scale' skin. There is no cure, but symptoms are usually mild and manageable with a daily skincare routine.
There are many variations of the disease, most of which are inherited. The most common type is ichthyosis vulgaris, which affects about 1 in 250 people. The next most common type is X-linked ichthyosis, which affects about 1 in 50,00 males.
Other inherited forms of the disease are very rare and include:
Most people with ichthyosis will have inherited a particular faulty gene from their parents.
This faulty gene affects the rate at which their skin regenerates – either the shedding of old skin cells is too slow, or the skin cells reproduce at a much faster rate than they can shed old skin. Either way, this causes a build-up of rough, scaly skin.
Symptoms of ichthyosis appear within the first year of life.
All types of ichthyosis cause dry, scaly skin, but this manifests slightly differently depending on which type you have.
The symptoms specific to each type of inherited ichthyosis are summarised below.
Acquired ichthyosis tends to develop in adulthood, and is not inherited. It's usually associated with another disease such as:
There is no cure for ichthyosis.
Some of the more common forms of ichthyosis are mild and will improve in the summertime.
Treatment involves moisturising and exfoliating the skin every day, to prevent dryness, scaling, cracking and the build-up of skin cells. Your dermatologist (skin specialist) will prescribe or recommend suitable moisturing creams and ointments.
You may find the following advice useful:
People with severe ichthyosis may need to spend several hours a day caring for their skin. They may find they suffer the following problems:
People with severe ichthyosis may be prescribed retinoid tablets (vitamin A) such as acitretin or isotretinoin, which reduce the growth of scaly skin but do not improve inflammation or redness. You can click on the above links for more information on the drugs.
Important: Our website provides useful information but is not a substitute for medical advice. You should always seek the advice of your doctor when making decisions about your health.