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Ichthyosis – symptoms, causes and treatment

Ichthyosis symptoms causes and treatment

Ichthyosis is a group of skin disorders characterized by dry, thickened, rough, and scaly skin, like fish skin. This condition can be inherited from parents, can also be obtained.

Ichthyosis is caused by a disruption in the process of skin regeneration. In this condition, the process of forming and exfoliating or changing skin cells becomes unbalanced. This causes the skin to lose moisture.

There are at least 20 variations of ichthyosis, including ichthyosis Vulgaris, X-linked ichthyosis, congenital ichthyosiform erythroderma, and Harlequin ichthyosis. However, the most common and mildest type is Ichthyosis Vulgaris.

Symptoms of Ichthyosis

The main symptoms of Ichthyosis are dry, thickened, and scaly skin. Scales arising from Ichthyosis can be white, gray, or dark brown. These complaints can appear on the back, abdomen, buttocks, limbs shin area, elbows, face, and scalp.

In addition to the main symptoms mentioned above, people with ichthyosis can also experience the following symptoms:

  • Redness that feels itchy.
  • Flaky skin.
  • The skin feels tight so it is difficult to move.
  • Chapped skin.
  • The skin can not sweat.

These symptoms can worsen when temperatures are cooler and improve when temperatures are warmer. In inherited Ichthyosis, the symptoms mentioned above can appear from birth or when they reach childhood, usually before 5 years of age.

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When to see a doctor

Check with your doctor if you experience the symptoms mentioned above. If Ichthyosis is quickly identified and treated, various complications due to this condition can be prevented.

If you have been diagnosed with ichthyosis, regularly control your doctor to monitor the progress of the condition.

Immediately consult a doctor if the symptoms of ichthyosis are felt even worse or if ichthyosis occurs in infants.

Causes of ichthyosis

Causes of Ichthyosis can be divided according to groups, namely:

  • Hereditary ichthyosis

This type of ichthyosis results from mutations in genes. This genetic mutation affects the speed of regeneration of skin cells and the ability of the skin to remain moist.

Some types of ichthyosis caused by genetic mutations are ichthyosis Vulgaris, X-linked ichthyosis, congenital ichthyosiform erythroderma, and Harlequin ichthyosis.

  • Ichthyosis obtained

The acquired ichthyosis will usually develop in adulthood. This condition is triggered and is associated with health conditions such as:

  • Hypothyroidism.
  • Kidney illness.
  • Cancer, such as Hodgkin’s lymphoma.
  • HIV infection.
  • Sarcoidosis.

In addition to the above conditions, acquired Ichthyosis can also be triggered by the use of certain drugs, such as:

  • Drugs for cancer, such as hydroxyurea, protease inhibitors, and vemurafenib.
  • Medications to treat high cholesterol, such as nicotinic acid.
  • Medication to treat stomach acid diseases, such as cimetidine.
  • Drugs to treat leprosy, such as clofazimine.

Diagnosis of Ichthyosis

To diagnose ichthyosis, the doctor will ask for complaints as well as medical history and medicines consumed by the patient. Next, the doctor will do a physical examination on the area of ​​the skin.

Symptoms and results of ichthyosis are sometimes similar to other skin diseases, such as eczema and psoriasis. Therefore, the doctor will recommend the following investigations to confirm the diagnosis:

Skin biopsy, to determine changes in the structure of the skin. This check can also be done to find out the cause of disturbance in the skin. This examination is done by taking a sample of the patient’s skin and researching it in the laboratory.

DNA testing, for example, with saliva samples, to determine gene changes, especially in inherited ichthyosis.

Treatment of ichthyosis

Ichthyosis cannot be cured. ichthyosis treatment aims to relieve complaints and prevent complications. Treatment can be done by the following methods:

Skincare products

Creams, lotions, or ointments containing lanolin, alpha hydroxy acid, urea, propylene glycol, salicylic acid, and ceramide, will be given by a doctor. These various substances can remove dead skin cells and maintain skin moisture.

In addition to using a cream or ointment from a doctor, the following steps should also be taken to relieve complaints and symptoms of ichthyosis:

  • Apply petroleum jelly on the skin before bathing or bathing.
  • Gently rub the skin with a coarse-textured sponge while bathing.
  • Take a bath or bath more than once a day.
  • Choose soap that has moisturizing and oil content.
  • Use an air humidifier at home or office so that the surrounding air is always damp.


In severe ichthyosis, the doctor can give medicines in the form of:

  • Retinoids

Retinoids can be prescribed by doctors to reduce the production of skin cells and improve the appearance of the skin.

  • Antibiotics or antiseptics

Antibiotics or antiseptics can be prescribed by doctors to treat infections that occur in the skin.

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In patients with ichthyosis due to gene abnormalities, the above treatment steps are sufficient to control the condition because it cannot be treated. But in patients with ichthyosis obtained, treatment of the trigger condition also needs to be done. If the trigger can be cured, ichthyosis has the potential to heal.

Complications of Ichthyosis

Some of the complications that can occur due to Ichthyosis are:

  • The skin is easily infected
  • Dehydration
  • An increase in body temperature that is at risk of overheating
  • Stunted hair growth

Because Ichthyosis affects the appearance, this condition can reduce the confidence of sufferers.

Prevention of ichthyosis

Ichthyosis that is triggered by heredity cannot be prevented. However, the following steps can be taken to prevent aggravating perceived complaints:

  • Diligently applying skin moisturizer, especially after bathing and when the weather is dry.
  • Choose an oil-based body cleanser to keep your skin moist.
  • Keep the air of residence always in humid conditions, for example by installing an air humidifier.

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