Allowing ichthyosis-affected skin to dry out can be deadly. If deep cracks and fissures form, they allow moisture to escape unchecked and germs to penetrate freely. So people with ichthyosis often take several baths a day, then apply a cocktail of lotions and creams to their still-damp skin [source: Mayo Clinic]. This helps seal in moisture and stave off dryness.
A few herbal remedies, such as the application of comfrey or plantain, are thought to help damaged skin cells re-generate [source: altMD]. But doctors often go the prescription route, advising patients to use lotions that contain skin-shedding chemicals, such as glycolic acid or lactic acid, which help the skin slough its dead cells [sources: The New York Times, Mayo Clinic].
In Gonzalez's case, he was one of the first to use a vitamin A-powered prescription acne medication to fight ichthyosis symptoms. The medicine works by slowing the production of skin cells. It worked for Gonzalez -- as a teenager in 2004, he was surviving and training as a triathlete, despite the toll the condition had taken on his body. Unfortunately, the drug comes with a price: hair loss, and swelling of the lips and eyes [source: Mayo Clinic].
For people with ichthyosis, the build-up of skin is another problem, one that often requires manual "de-scaling." This means using a loofah, pumice stone or other abrasive tool to remove layers of thickened skin.
The best treatment, however, may be to get to the root of the problem. Enzyme therapy research has initially been promising, especially for those with lamellar ichthyosis. The hope is to develop liposome-enriched creams. The idea is that, by replacing missing reparative enzymes, skin will begin to regenerate and shed in a more typical manner [source: Traupe].
Learn more about common -- and not so common -- skin disorders by following the links below.
- 10News.com. "Man Survives Rare Skin-Shedding Disease." Nov. 15, 2004. (June 3, 2010)http://www.10news.com/health/3919722/detail.html
- AltMD.com. "Herbal Remedies for Ichthyosis." AltMD.com. (June 3, 2010).http://www.altmd.com/Articles/Herbal-Remedies-for-Ichthyosis
- Bale, Sherri. "Genetic Testing for Ichthyoses." ScalySkin.org. 2004. (June 3, 2010)http://www.scalyskin.org/content.cfm?ContentID=194&ColumnID=4
- Foundation for Ichthyosis and Related Skin Types (FIRST). "About Ichthyosis: Facts and Figures." ScalySkin.org. (June 3, 2010)http://www.scalyskin.org/column.cfm?ColumnID=11
- Foundation for Ichthyosis and Related Skin Types (FIRST). "About Ichthyosis: Lamellar Ichthyosis." ScalySkin.org. (June 3, 2010)http://www.scalyskin.org/content.cfm?ContentID=91&ColumnID=14
- Foundation for Ichthyosis and Related Skin Types (FIRST). "Ichthyosis Through the Decades." ScalySkin.org. (June 3, 2010)http://www.scalyskin.org/content.cfm?ContentID=295&ColumnID=34
- Gurses, Dolunay, et al. "A Case of Harlequin Fetus with Psoriasis in his Family." The Internet Journal of Dermatology. 2001. (June 3, 2010)http://www.ispub.com/ostia/index.php?xmlFilePath=journals/ijd/vol1n1/harlequin.xml
- Hershey Medical Center College of Medicine. "Ichthyosis/Ichthyosis Vulgaris." PennState. (June 3, 2010).http://www.hmc.psu.edu/healthinfo/i/ichthyosis.htm
- Mayo Clinic. "Ichthyosis Vulgaris." May 11, 2010. (June 3, 2010) MayoClinic.com.http://www.mayoclinic.com/health/ichthyosis-vulgaris/DS00734
- Prendiville, Julie. "Harlequin Ichthyosis: Differential Diagnoses and Workup." WebMD.com. June 4, 2010. (June 7, 2010).http://emedicine.medscape.com/article/1111503-diagnosis
- Project Save Our Skin. "About Ichthyosis." ProjectSaveOurSkin.org. (June 3, 2010)http://www.projectsaveourskin.org/about_ichthyosis.htm
- RxList.com. "Accutane." RxList.com. (June 3, 2010)http://www.rxlist.com/accutane-drug.htm
- Schwartz, Robert. "Ichthyosis Vulgaris, Hereditary and Acquired." eMedicine from WebMD.com. July 21, 2009. (June 3, 2010)http://emedicine.medscape.com/article/1112753-overview
- SkinSight.com "Scaly Skin." SkinSight.com. (June 3, 2010)http://www.skinsight.com/adult/ichthyosisVulgaris.htm
- The New York Times. "Ichthyosis Vulgaris." NYTimes.com. April 16, 2007. (June 3, 2010)http://health.nytimes.com/health/guides/disease/ichthyosis-vulgaris/overview.html
- Traupe, Heiko. "Liposomal Packing of Recombinant Transglutaminase-1 as an Essential Step Toward Enzyme Replacement Therapy of Transgultaminase-1 Deficient Lamellar Ichthyosis." 2007. (June 3, 2010)http://www.scalyskin.org/content.cfm?ContentID=340&ColumnID=4