Ichthyosis vulgaris, also referred to as common ichthyosis or scale disease, may be a skin condition leading to scaly skin, especially on the arms and legs. Its name is derived from the Greek word meaning "fish."
Ichthyosis vulgaris can be a trait passed on in families (hereditary), or it may develop later in life as a result of certain exposures (acquired). The hereditary type, also called congenital ichthyosis vulgaris, first appears in early childhood and accounts for more than 95% of cases of ichthyosis vulgaris. The acquired type usually develops in adulthood and results from an internal disease or the use of certain medications.
Who's at risk?
Ichthyosis vulgaris is found in people of all races and of both sexes. Hereditary ichthyosis vulgaris is fairly common. As many as 1 in 250 children may have hereditary ichthyosis vulgaris. On the opposite hand, acquired ichthyosis vulgaris is rare and is found almost exclusively in adults.
In hereditary ichthyosis, usually at least one of the affected person's parents had the same dry, scaly skin as a child. It is inherited in an autosomal dominant fashion, meaning that each child of an affected parent has a 50-50 chance of having hereditary ichthyosis vulgaris.
Signs and Symptoms
The most common locations for ichthyosis vulgaris include:
Ø Fronts (extensor surfaces) of the legs
Ø Backs (extensor surfaces) of the arms
Ø Front of the neck
Ø Folds in front of the elbows (flexural surfaces of the arms)
Ø Folds behind the knees (flexural surfaces of the legs)
Hereditary ichthyosis and purchased ichthyosis look similar, and both are usually itchy. However, the acquired form occurs in people with many internal conditions, including:
Ø Poor nutrition
Ø Infections, such as leprosy or HIV/AIDS
Ø Glandular diseases, such as thyroid or parathyroid problems
Ø Cancer, such as lymphoma or multiple myeloma
Ø Use of certain medications, such as nicotinic acid, cimetidine, and clofazimine
Hereditary ichthyosis vulgaris tends to enhance after puberty, while acquired ichthyosis vulgaris requires treatment of the medical condition before it'll improve.
However, both conditions should improve by restoring moisture (hydration) to the skin. Creams and ointments are better moisturizers than lotions, and that they work best when applied just after bathing, while the skin remains moist. The following over-the-counter products may be helpful:
Ø Preparations containing alpha-hydroxy acids such as glycolic acid or lactic acid
Ø Creams containing urea
Ø Over-the-counter cortisone cream (if the areas are itchy)
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