Your skin faces numerous challenges and protects your body from a wide spectrum of environmental factors, which is why it is prone to damage and other issues. Plus, it is also possible to inherit some skin condition including ichthyosis or red skin disease. While some skin conditions are well-known, others aren’t and ichthyosis is one of them. What is red skin disease? What are its causes and symptoms? Keep reading to find out!
What is Ichthyosis?
The term ichthyosis refers to a family of disorders indicated by thickened, scaly, and dry skin. The word “ichthy” comes from Greek and it means fish, the condition itself got its name because the thickened skin has the appearance of fish scales, in some instances. Ichthyosis can be inherited or acquired. The inherited form of this skin condition usually occurs during the first year of life and in some cases at birth, while the latter, acquired form develops as a result of medical problems including hormonal and inflammatory disorders.
Hereditary ichthyosis affects 1 in 300 people in the United States. According to some estimates, the true prevalence might be higher because symptoms improve with age. On the other hand, acquired ichthyosis is extremely rare and the prevalence rates in the US are unknown.
Causes of Red Skin Disease
As mentioned above, this red skin disease may be present at birth or develop during the first year of a baby’s life. Hereditary causes are more common than acquired. Similarly to a wide spectrum of skin condition, ichthyosis has a lot to do with genetics. According to a study whose findings were published in the Journal of Allergy and Clinical Immunology, an arm of the immune system, the Th17 pathway, in ichthyosis patients is too active. The higher the activity of this particular pathway, the worse is the severity of the disease.
In patients with ichthyosis, the skin barrier is abnormal, thus making skin dry, scaly, and inflamed. The patients are disfigured by this skin disorder which can be painful and get infected easily.
Children can develop genetic mutation from one or both parents. Generally, kids who inherit the red skin disease from one parent have a milder form of the disease, compared to children who inherit the condition from both parents.
In rare instances, a person can acquire the disease through underlying health problem such as thyroid disease, kidney failure, cancer, and so on. Ichthyosis may also occur together with some other skin condition such as eczema.
It is important to mention that ichthyosis doesn’t have “racial predisposition” and affects both men and women equally, according to the available data.
Symptoms of Red Skin Disease
Ichthyosis progresses by slowing down the skin’s natural shedding process. As a result, it leads to a chronic and excessive buildup of the protein keratin, found in the upper layer of the skin. The most common symptoms of this condition are:
- Dry and scaly skin
- Flaky scalp
- Itchy skin
- Scales on the skin are colored white, dirty gray or brown
- Skin has deep and painful cracks
- Thick skin
- Tile-like, small scales on the skin
Symptoms of the red skin disease usually worsen in winter when the air becomes dry and cold. The skin patches form on elbows and lower legs e.g. shins. In severe instances, a patient can develop painful cracks on the soles of the feet, palms of their hands, and so on. As mentioned above, these deep cracks can be prone to infections.
If you experience most of all symptoms mentioned above, you should schedule an appointment and see your dermatologist. Your dermatologist can diagnose the skin condition just by looking at the patches and cracks. In order to rule out other skin conditions with similar symptoms, the dermatologist may perform a skin biopsy.
How is This Skin Condition Treated?
Unfortunately, the cure that could eliminate this skin disease doesn’t exist. Several treatment options are available and they focus on helping patients manage their symptoms:
- Oral medication – The dermatologist usually prescribes retinoids, Vitamin A – Derived medications, in a bid to reduce the skin cell production
- Exfoliating creams and ointments – containing alpha hydroxy acids to control scaling and improve skin moisture
- Use a humidifier to add more moisture to dry air inside your home
- Make sure you apply moisturizer immediately after you’re done with your bath or shower, while the skin is still moist
- Relax with a long bath to soften your skin and use a mild soap and a loofah or pumice stone to remove the scales
- Get support from loved ones
- Connect with other people who deal with the same skin problem
- If you’re struggling to cope with the skin condition, talking things through with a therapist can be of huge help.
Living with this skin condition can be quite frustrating, particularly for children, but there are numerous things you can do to ease its impact and improve your quality of life. For example:
Red skin disease or ichthyosis is usually of hereditary nature, cases of the acquired form of the disease are rare and their prevalence is unknown. The disease is caused by a genetic mutation and ranges in severity. Although the cure doesn’t exist, it is possible to manage the symptoms. The discovery of an overactive pathway that causes the skin condition is a solid base for scientists to start carrying out research and find out more about the disease itself and improve treatment options.