What is ichthyosis?

Ichthyosis is a group of skin disorders. It leads to dry, itchy skin that appears scaly, rough, and red. The symptoms can range from mild to severe. Ichthyosis can affect only the skin, but sometimes the disease can affect internal organs, too.

Who gets ichthyosis?

Anyone can get ichthyosis. The disease usually runs in families; however, some people can be the first in a family to develop ichthyosis. 

What are the types of ichthyosis?

There are several types of ichthyosis. Doctors may determine the type of ichthyosis you have by identifying the:

  • Changed gene that caused the disorder.
  • How it is passed down in your family by looking at your family tree.
  • Symptoms, including how bad they and which organs they affect.
  • Age when symptoms first appeared.

What are the symptoms of ichthyosis?

The symptoms of ichthyosis can range from mild to severe. The most common symptoms include:

  • Dry skin.
  • Itching.
  • Redness of the skin.
  • Cracking of the skin.
  • Scales on the skin that are white, gray, or brown.

Depending on the type of ichthyosis, other symptoms may include:

  • Blisters that can break, leading to wounds.
  • Hair loss or fragile hair.
  • Dry eyes and difficulty closing eyelids.
  • Inability to sweat because skin scales clog the sweat glands.
  • Difficulty hearing.
  • Thickening of the skin on the palms of the hands and soles of the feet.
  • Tightening of the skin.
  • Difficulty flexing some joints.
  • Open wounds from scratching itchy skin.

What causes ichthyosis?

Changes to one or more genes cause all of the inherited types of ichthyosis. Genes carry information that determines which features are passed to you from your parents. We have two copies of our genes—one from each parent. You may get this changed gene from one or both parents, or the gene might stop working properly on its own. 

Some people get ichthyosis because they have another medical condition or experience a side effect from a medication.

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