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Lahey Health is now part of Beth Israel Lahey Health

by EBSCO Medical Review Board
(Fish Scale Disease; Xeroderma)

Definition

Ichthyosis is a group of skin disorders that cause dryness and scaling. There are two main types:

  • Inherited—due to hereditary factors
  • Acquired—due to certain health problems (rare)

Causes

The inherited type is caused by a genetic defect that is passed from parent to child or that occurs on its own.

The acquired type may be caused by health problems, such as:

Risk Factors

Things that may raise the risk of this problem are:

  • Having other family members who have it
  • Having any of the health problems that may cause the acquired type

Symptoms

It can affect any part of the body. It is common on the legs, arms, and trunk. Symptoms can be mild to severe and include:

  • Dry, flaking skin
  • Scaling that looks like fish scales
  • Shedding of skin layers
  • Itching
  • Scarring

Diagnosis

The doctor will ask about your symptoms and health history. You may also be asked about your family history. A physical exam will be done. It will focus on the skin.

Blood tests may be done to look for signs of the gene linked to this health problem.

Skin Biopsy
Skin proceedure
Copyright © Nucleus Medical Media, Inc.

Treatment

There is no cure. The goal of treatment is to manage symptoms. Any underlying cause will also need to be treated.

Treatment may include:

  • Lifestyle changes, such as using non-soap cleansers and removing scales with a pumice stone
  • Ointment, lotions, or creams to keep the skin moist
  • Solutions or creams with lactic/salicylic acid or urea to ease scaling
  • Medicines, such as retinoids or calcipotriene to treat severe symptoms

Prevention

There are no current guidelines to prevent this health problem.

RESOURCES

Foundation for Ichthyosis & Related Skin Types  http://www.firstskinfoundation.org 

The National Registry for Ichthyosis and Related Disorders  http://www.skinregistry.org 

CANADIAN RESOURCES

Canadian Dermatology Association  https://www.dermatology.ca 

Health Canada  https://www.canada.ca 

References

Ichthyosis. EBSCO DynaMed website. Available at: https://www.dynamed.com/condition/ichthyosis. Accessed March 24, 2021.

Ichthyosis. DermNet NZ website. Available at: https://www.dermnetnz.org/topics/ichthyosis. Accessed March 24, 2021.

Newly diagnosed? Foundation for Ichthyosis & Related Skin Types website. Available at: http://www.firstskinfoundation.org/content.cfm/Ichthyosis/Newly-Diagnosed/page%5Fid/1245. Accessed March 24, 2021.

Schmuth M, Martinz V, et al. Inherited ichthyoses/generalized Mendelian disorders of cornification. Eur J Hum Genet. 2013 Feb;21(2):123-133.

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