Ichthyosis Overview

Real-life Care for Incurable Skin

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 on the next page.

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