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A large proportion of people, particularly women, will suffer from some level of dry skin. Men do suffer it as well, but they don’t tend to be concerned about it like women are. But when is dry skin more than just a minor problem?

A large proportion of people, particularly women, will suffer from some level of dry skin. Men do suffer it as well, but they don’t tend to be concerned about it like women are. The winter months are especially cruel for those with dry skin, due to the temperatures, the air environment and warm bathing. But when is dry skin more than just a minor problem?

What Is Ichthyosis?

For people with this condition, dry skin is far more severe, and it can be hugely debilitating for many. Around 20 different varieties of ichthyosis are known, and many of them are caused by a genetic mutation. When it is not a genetic disorder, acquired ichthyosis is often due to an underlying medical condition.

Ichthyosis is often referred to as "fish scale disease" because of the appearance of the scales that resemble those of a fish. This can have a far-reaching psychological impact, particularly on children who are more likely to experience bullying and teasing as a result of the condition.

What Are The Symptoms Of Ichthyosis?

The symptoms that accompany this disorder vary depending on what form of ichthyosis you have. The most common form is called Ichthyosis vulgaris, and the symptoms can range in severity from moderate to severe. They can include:

  • Itchy skin
  • Scales on the skin
  • Brown, white or gray coloration of the scales
  • Flaky scalp
  • Severe dryness of the skin
  • Skin that is thickened

Where On The Body Does Ichthyosis Occur?

The most common sites of occurrence include the lower legs and the elbows. The shins are notorious for being the main site of ichthyosis vulgaris. When it is at its most severe, the skin can actually crack, which is very painful, like a sharp stinging sensation. Cracked skin can take appear on the legs, feet and elbows.

Diagnosing Ichthyosis

If a doctor suspects you may have ichthyosis based on a physical examination, you would normally be referred to a dermatologist for further assessment. Often no further tests are needed to make the diagnosis, as it is obvious by sight, but sometimes a biopsy of the skin may be taken or a blood test may be required to rule out any other possible skin disorders.

What Are Your Treatment Options?

Like any regular form of dry skin, moisturizing is imperative. The difference is that the moisturizing creams used are usually much thicker and stronger than regular brands of moisturizer. Whereas in ordinary dry skin you may apply the cream once or twice a day, a patient with ichthyosis will need to do so several times a day. 

It is also important for the creams to contain no fragrances or artificial colors, as these can dry the skin out further or aggravate the ichthyosis symptoms.

Other types of creams that may be prescribed by your doctor to help control the itching, inflammation and removal of dead skin may include these ingredients:

  • Lactic acid
  • Alpha hydroxy acids
  • Retinoids
  • Vitamin D supplements

Complications Of Ichthyosis Vulgaris

When the condition is severe, there are complications that can occur. These can include:

  • Infection of the skin from irritation and scratching
  • Cracking of the skin
  • Overheating of the body
  • Reduced movement due to pain
  • Hearing and eyesight impairment
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