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Coping with Ichthyosis | Skin Conditions | E45 UK


There are many different types of ichthyosis. Most involve only the skin, others may even affect internal organs. Ichthyosis causes the skin to build up and scale, the scaling can also be painful and restrict movement or cause deep cracks or fissures at the joints. Living with ichthyosis may be very tough, but can be managed by caring for your skin the right way.

What is Ichthyosis?

Ichthyosis is a rare skin condition that can affect anybody, regardless of gender or race. It may be genetic or develop as a result of a disease. Inherited ichthyosis is often apparent from birth and can affect a person for life. All forms of ichthyosis are characterized by dry, thickened, scaling skin.

Types of Ichthyosis

There are many variations of this disease and most are passed on by genes:

● Ichthyosis Vulgaris

The most common form of ichthyosis affecting 1 out of 250 people and is usually an inherited disease, with majority of cases being mild and contained to specific areas of the body. Symptoms include itchy skin, a flaky scalp, dry skin, scales that are grey, white or brown and severely thickened. Symptoms are usually worse in winter, when the air is colder and dryer.

● X-Linked Ichthyosis

This less common form of ichthyosis only occurs in males and can range from mild to severe. X-linked ichthyosis causes dark scales to form that often cover only a portion of the body. Treatment focuses on removing excess scales and keeping the skin hydrated with topical creams.

● Harlequin Ichthyosis

Harlequin ichthyosis is a severe skin condition. Infants with this condition are born with very thick, red skin covering most of their bodies. Harlequin ichthyosis is very rare with only 5 such children born in the UK each year. This condition requires intensive care.

● Lamellar Ichthyosis

A rare inherited skin disorder, affecting around 1 in 600 000 people. This skin condition is characterized by abnormal scaling and shedding of the skin. Lamellar ichthyosis can be very severe and last lifelong.

How to Cope With Ichthyosis?

There is no cure for ichthyosis and the main goal of treatment is to moisturise and help prevent the dryness, scaling and cracking. People with ichthyosis may need to spend more time caring for their skin to gain control of their symptoms. Caring for ichthyosis is about looking good as much as feeling good so use these three tips for both:

1. Treat the Dry Skin

Ichthyosis may affect your skins ability to sweat so keeping your skin hydrated is a good idea. Make sure you soak when bathing and have plenty of time to get ready. Take warm, not hot showers and then use a rough-textured sponge to remove the thickened scales. Instead of rubbing your skin with the towel, just pat the dry skin so it stays a little damp. Immediately apply a lotion or a cream from head to toe to lock the moisture in.

2. Avoid Irritation

It is best to put perfumes on to the top layer of your clothes as to not irritate your skin. Choose mild soaps that have added oils and fats. Avoiding strongly scented antibacterial soaps is recommended, since they can be especially harsh on dry skin.

3. Avoid Triggers

Avoiding common trigger factors can also go a long way to managing ichthyosis. Try to stay out of cold weather the best you possibly can since it can be a trigger and cause more scaling. Carry a small lotion bottle for your face and arms that you can keep with you at all times. Consider a humidifier to bring more moisture to your room. Water misters can also be great for the summer when the weather is warmer.

People suffering from ichthyosis need to bathe and moisturise their skin on a regular basis. A dermatologist can recommend you moisturising creams or ointments that can help keep the condition under control and reduce scaling.

In general, the regular use of a good moisturising product can be enough to reduce the characteristic dryness, cracking and the scaly build-up of skin. Although self-help treatments won’t cure ichthyosis, they can help bring back the feel and appearance of healthy skin.

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