Ichthyosis is a group of about 20 skin conditions that cause skin dryness and scaling. The condition gets its name from the Greek word for fish, because the skin looks like fish scales. You might also hear it called fish scale or fish skin disease.
Causes of Ichthyosis
Underactive thyroid gland
Sarcoidosis, a rare disease that causes patches of inflammation inside the body
Cancer such as Hodgkin lymphoma
Some medicines might also trigger the condition:
Cancer drugs such as hydroxyurea (Droxia, Hydrea), protease inhibitors (a group of drugs used to treat HIV infections), and vemurafenib ( Zelboraf).
Nicotinic acid, which is used to treat high cholesterol
Symptoms of Ichthyosis
In the inherited forms, symptoms appear at birth or in the first few months of life.
Dry, scaly skin is the main symptom. The scales form on only some parts of the body, such as the:
Face and scalp
Diagnosis of Ichthyosis
Sometimes it’s so mild that it looks like regular dry skin. If the dryness and scaling bother you, see a dermatologist a doctor who treats skin problems for treatment.
Take a sample of skin to check under a microscope. This is called a biopsy.
Test your saliva for gene changes that cause certain types of ichthyosis.
Treatment of Ichthyosis
It can’t be cured, but treatments can help you manage dry and scaly skin.
Rub cream, lotion, or ointment onto your skin every day to add moisture. Look for rich creams that have any of these ingredients: lanolin, alpha hydroxy acids, urea, or propylene glycol. Products with ceramides or cholesterol also keep skin moist.
Apply the lotion right after you step out of the shower or bath, while your skin is still damp. This will help hold in moisture.
Other things you can try:
Take baths in salt water.
Rub your skin with a pumice stone.
Remove dead skin with a product that contains salicylic acid, glycolic acid, or lactic acid.
If the dryness and scaling are severe, your doctor might prescribe an oral retinoid medicine such as acitretin (Soriatane) or isotretinoin (Absorica, Claravis, Sotret, and others). Retinoids can cause side effects such as weakened bones, dry mouth, and upset stomach.