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Alternative Names Return to topCommon ichthyosis; Fish scale disease
Definition Return to top
Ichthyosis vulgaris is a common skin disorder passed down through families that leads to dry, scaly skin.
Causes Return to top
Ichthyosis vulgaris is one of the most common of the inherited skin disorders. It may begin in early childhood, before age 4. The condition is inherited in an autosomal dominant pattern. That means you only need to get the abnormal gene from one parent in order for you to inherit the disease.
The condition is often more noticeable in the winter. It may occur along with atopic dermatitis, keratosis pilaris (small bumps on the back of the arms), or other skin disorders.
Symptoms Return to top
The dry, scaly skin is usually most severe over the legs but may also involve the arms, hands, and middle of the body. Persons with this condition may also have many fine lines over the palm of the hand.
Exams and Tests Return to top
Your doctor can usually diagnose this condition by looking at your skin. Tests may be needed to rule out other possible causes of dry, scaly skin.
Your doctor will ask you if you have a family history of similar skin dryness.
Treatment Return to top
Your doctor will recommend heavy duty moisturizers. Creams and ointments work better than lotions. Apply these to moist skin immediately after bathing. You should use mild, non-drying soaps.
Your doctor may tell you to use moisturizing creams that contain chemicals that help skin to shed normally, including lactic acid, salicylic acid, and urea.
Outlook (Prognosis) Return to top
Ichthyosis vulgaris can be a nuisance, but it rarely affects your overall health. The condition usually disappears during adulthood, but may return years later.
Possible Complications Return to top
A bacterial skin infection may develop if scratching causes openings in the skin.
When to Contact a Medical Professional Return to top
Call for an appointment with your health care provider if:
Prevention Return to top
If you have this condition, be aware that your children are at risk for developing it.Update Date: 4/10/2009 Updated by: Kevin Berman, MD, PhD, Atlanta Center for Dermatologic Disease, Atlanta, GA. Review provided by VeriMed Healthcare Network. Also reviewed by David Zieve, MD, MHA, Medical Director, A.D.A.M., Inc.