What Are The Symptoms And Causes Of Ichthyosis Vulgaris? 


Ichthyosis is a name used to refer to about twenty skin conditions that can lead to skin dryness and scaling. Ichthyosis Vulgaris is one of the skin conditions in which dead skin cells accumulate on the surface of your skin in the form of scales that are thick and dry. Ichthyosis Vulgaris is also called fish skin disease or fish scale disease as the skin of the person can resemble that of fish. 


It is an inherited skin disorder that can be present at birth but commonly appear in the early stages of childhood. Some mild cases of ichthyosis can go unnoticed as they can be mistaken for extreme cases of dry skin. In some cases, other skin conditions like eczema will be associated with ichthyosis. There is no known cure for the condition and the treatment plans focus on controlling the condition and its symptoms.  


Symptoms Of Ichthyosis 

Skin disorders like ichthyosis slow down the natural shedding process of your skin, resulting in an excessive build-up of protein in the keratin layer of the skin. Some of the common symptoms of ichthyosis include: 

  • Skin that is dry and scaly.
  • Scales that appear like tiles.
  • Flaky scalp.
  • Gray, white or brown scales depending on the skin color of the person. 
  • Painful skin cracks. 


The scales commonly appear on the lower legs and elbows and can be particularly dark and thick on the shins. The severity of symptoms can vary much among family members having the skin condition. As per the experts in low income health clinics, the symptoms can worsen in cold conditions and can improve in humid and warm environments. 


Causes Of Ichthyosis

This skin disorder is usually caused by a genetic mutation that can be inherited from one or both parents. Children who inherit the condition will have normal skin at birth and can develop skin roughness and scaling before two years of age. If genetic mutations are not causing the condition, it is called acquired ichthyosis and can be linked to other diseases like cancer, HIV/AIDs, or thyroid diseases. 


If you suffer from ichthyosis, you can visit a low income medical clinic in your locality and get the necessary treatment. This is important because, in some cases, the skin scales and thickness can interfere with the normal sweating process and can inhibit cooling. Also, skin cracking and splitting can result in infections.

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    About the Author

    Dr. Ghassan M. Al-Jazayrly, MD

    A graduate of University of Aleppo Faculty of Medicine, Dr. Al-Jazayrly or, as he is colloquially known: Dr. AJ, is an oncologist and hematologist of a Complete Care Community Health Center (CCCHC) with more than 36 years of experience. In recent years, he’s been involved with a non profit organization known as Every Woman Counts (EWC) which provides free breast and cervical cancer screening and diagnostic services to California’s underserved populations in order to eliminate health disparities for low-income individuals.

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