By Dr. Sangeeta Varma, Dermatology
Often confused with extremely dry skin, ichthyosis vulgaris is generally an inherited condition whereby dead skin cells accumulate as thick, dry scales on your skin’s surface. Sometimes referred to as fish scale disease or fish skin disease, ichthyosis vulgaris scales usually appear during early childhood and are associated with other skin disorders such as the allergic skin condition eczema. People suffering from the disease may experience several complications like secondary infections as well as hyperhidrosis or excessive sweating.
With ichthyosis vulgaris, your skin’s natural shedding process slows down, causing chronic excessive buildup of keratin in the upper layer of your skin. Symptoms may include:
1. Dry, scaly skin
2. Small tile-like scales
3. Flaky scalp
4. White, dirty brown or grey colored scales
5. Deep, painful cracks on your skin
These scales usually appear on your lower legs, elbows and over your shins and generally worsen in cold and dry environments. In warm or humid environments, symptoms gradually improve or may even resolve.
The main cause of ichthyosis vulgaris is one or more genetic defects inherited from either one or both parents. Children who inherit a defective gene only from one parent will suffer from a relatively milder case of the disease, in comparison to those inheriting from both parents.
If the causes are not genetic abnormalities, the disease is referred to as an acquired ichthyosis. It is normally accompanied by other diseases, such as thyroid disease, cancer or even HIV/AIDS.