Ichthyosis vulgaris slows your skin's natural shedding process. This causes chronic, excessive buildup of the protein in the upper layer of the skin (keratin). Symptoms include:
- Dry, scaly skin
- Tile-like, small scales
- Scales colored white, dirty gray or brown — with darker colored scales typically on darker skin
- Flaky scalp
- Deep, painful cracks in your skin
The scales usually appear on your elbows and lower legs and may be especially thick and dark over your shins. Most cases of ichthyosis vulgaris are mild, but some can be severe. The severity of symptoms may vary widely among family members who have the condition.
Symptoms usually worsen or are more pronounced in cold, dry environments and tend to improve or even resolve in warm, humid environments.
When to see a doctor
If you suspect you or your child has ichthyosis, talk to your family doctor or a dermatologist. He or she can diagnose the condition by examining the characteristic scales. Also, be sure to seek medical advice if the symptoms worsen or don't improve with self-care measures. You may need stronger medication to manage the condition.
Oct. 20, 2012
- Ichthyosis. The Merck Manuals: The Merck Manual for Healthcare Professionals. http://www.merckmanuals.com/professional/dermatologic_disorders/cornification_disorders/ichthyosis.html#v960749. Accessed Sept. 1, 2012.
- Goldstein BG, et al. Metabolic and inherited diseases affecting the skin. http://www.uptodate.com/index. Accessed Sept. 1, 2012.
- Ichthyosis vulgaris. Foundation for Ichthyosis & Related Skin Types, Inc. http://www.firstskinfoundation.org/content.cfm/Ichthyosis/Ichthyosis-Vulgaris-Fact-Sheet/page_id/898. Accessed Sept. 1, 2012.
- Goldsmith LA, et al., eds. Fitzpatrick's Dermatology in General Medicine. 8th ed. New York, N.Y.: The McGraw-Hill Companies; 2012. http://www.accessmedicine.com/content.aspx?aID=56035110. Accessed September 1, 2012.
- Okulicz JF, et al. Hereditary and acquired ichthyosis vulgaris. International Journal of Dermatology 2003;42:95.