Ichthyosis Vulgaris: Causes, Symptoms, and Treatments
Do you have dry, itchy, scaly skin? Do you have painful cracks in your skin? Does your skin get worse in the winter?
You might have ichthyosis vulgaris.
In this article, we’ll explain what ichthyosis vulgaris is as well as what causes it. We’ll also talk about the symptoms of ichthyosis vulgaris and what you can do to treat the condition, if you have it.
What Is Ichthyosis Vulgaris?
Many people think that ichthyosis vulgaris is the name of one skin condition. But according to the University of Minnesota’s Adoption Medicine Clinic, ichthyosis vulgaris covers a spectrum of skin disorders. These skin diseases are all characterized as conditions which sometimes cause scaling skin. These skin disorders vary in severity.
The most common forms of ichthyosis vulgaris are very common. According to the Adoption Medicine Clinic, 1 in 2501 people has a mild form of ichthyosis. Most people are unaware that they have a skin condition and that it’s something more than dry skin. Severe cases of ichthyosis vulgaris are incredibly rare. Only about 1 in 300,000 people have a severe form of ichthyosis vulgaris. These more extreme varieties of ichthyosis vulgaris require lifelong medical care and routine doctors’ visits to treat it.
So what exactly is ichthyosis vulgaris? It’s a condition where dead skin cells accumulate on the surface of the skin in patches. Ichthyosis vulgaris is usually confined to one, specific area on the body, however, it can cover a larger, areas of the body as well in some cases.
If you think you have ichthyosis vulgaris, set up an appointment with your doctor. He or she can properly diagnose you and tell you how severe your ichthyosis vulgaris is. They classify diseases within the ichthyosis vulgaris by severity, genetics, and occasionally, by biopsy results.
Causes Of Ichthyosis Vulgaris
According to MedlinePlus, a US National Library of Medicine resource, ichthyosis vulgaris is an inherited, genetic condition. Patients inherit ichthyosis vulgaris from something that is called an autosomal dominant pattern. MedlinePlus explains, in a separate article, that an autosomal dominant patterns are when dominant genes in non-sex related chromosomes decide a person’s physical attributes. So, if one of the patient's parents pass on the dominant gene for ichthyosis vulgaris, their child will have the condition.
Ichthyosis vulgaris develops in children first normally. By the time they’re adults they’ve normally grown out if it. Patients who have one of the ichthyosis’ spectrum diseases are more likely to notice their symptoms in the winter. Medline also says that people with ichthyosis vulgaris usually have other skin problems such as atopic dermatitis or keratosis pilaris. Patients with ichthyosis vulgaris are also more likely to have asthma as well.
No matter how old you are or when you first noticed your symptoms, set up an appointment with your doctor or dermatologist. This is so he or she can diagnose you and help you get the treatment you need. Ichthyosis vulgaris can cause mild to severe discomfort depending on the severity of the condition. Treatment can help relieve that.
Symptoms Of Ichthyosis Vulgaris
Ichthyosis vulgaris is characterized by the body’s inability or slowed ability to shed excess skin cells. This leads to a buildup of keratin on the top layers of skin. According to the Mayo Clinic, it’s this buildup of keratin which creates the scaly skin.
The Mayo Clinic says the symptoms of ichthyosis vulgaris are as follows:
- Dry, scaly skin
- Tile-like scales
- Scales turning a white, gray, or brown color
- Flaky scalp
- Deep cracks in the skin
- Pain or discomfort
Harvard Health Publishing, a property of Harvard’s Medical School, adds the following symptoms to that list:
- Severe dryness
- Thickening skin
- Flaking skin
- Mild itching
- Body odor
- Wax buildup in the ears
- Difficulty hearing
According to Harvard Health Publishing, the number and severity of symptoms a patient will develop will depend on which autosomal condition they have. Most patients will notice that their symptoms get worse during the winter or while they are visiting a dry climate.
As we said earlier on, the symptoms of ichthyosis vulgaris are usually very mild. Ichthyosis vulgaris itself is rarely a threat to your health. But, since ichthyosis vulgaris can cause the skin barrier to weaken, it makes you more susceptible to infection.
This is the reason why you should seek out treatment if you notice the symptoms of ichthyosis vulgaris. Not only is ichthyosis vulgaris itchy and uncomfortable to live with, but it opens you up to a variety of other infections. Infections you wouldn’t have to worry about otherwise.
Treatments For Ichthyosis Vulgaris
Since ichthyosis vulgaris is a genetic disease, more appropriately thought of as a spectrum of genetic diseases, there is no cure for it. This is according to the National Center for Advancing Translational Sciences’ Genetic and Rare Diseases Information Center, a property of the National Institute of Health.
There are some treatment options, however, for people with ichthyosis vulgaris.
According to the Genetic and Rare Diseases Information Center ichthyosis vulgaris treatments include the following:
Creams and ointments containing alpha hydroxy acids - Alpha hydroxy acids are chemical compounds such as lactic acid and glycolic acid. These acids help control scaling and increase skin moisture. Soothing creams and ointments are great for lessening symptoms of ichthyosis vulgaris. They’re great because they can soothe itchy skin and calm inflammation.
Retinoids - Retinoids are chemical compounds that affect the body in a similar fashion as Vitamin A does. In fact, Vitamin A is also a retinoid. Retinoids are important for ichthyosis vulgaris treatment because they reduce skin cell production. If a patient is producing fewer skin cells, then their body can get rid of its excess cells more easily. More shedding leads to less keratin buildup. Less keratin buildup means fewer scales and less itching.
Antibiotics - Doctors don’t treat patients with antibiotics to prevent ichthyosis vulgaris. They use antibiotics to prevent possible secondary diseases from developing. Remember, the skin barrier is significantly weaker when a patient has ichthyosis vulgaris, so infection is more likely.
Your doctor or dermatologist can help you determine which treatment option is the best for you. He or she is best prepared to consider your particular case of ichthyosis vulgaris.
Now You’re Prepared To Handle Ichthyosis Vulgaris
For most people, ichthyosis vulgaris is not a big issue. Even though variations of this disease are fairly common, they are also barely noticeable to most people. But that’s not true for everyone.
For some patients, ichthyosis vulgaris can cause serious discomfort and put them at risk of infection. If you’re noticing one or more of the ichthyosis vulgaris’ symptoms, it may be worth your time to schedule an appointment with your doctor. If you have noticeable ichthyosis vulgaris you’ll want to receive treatment and relief from the noticeable itching.