Ichthyosis vulgaris is a skin condition sometimes called “fish scale disease” because dead skin cells accumulate in areas on the skin, resembling the pattern of fish scales.
Most cases of ichthyosis vulgaris are inherited. The genes that cause it may be passed on from the mother or the father. Children who receive one gene may have a very mild form of the disease; children with genes from both parents will have a more severe case.
Sometimes, ichthyosis vulgaris can be present in patients with other diseases, like cancer or AIDS, who don’t have a genetic predisposition to getting it. This is called acquired ichthyosis.
People with ichthyosis vulgaris have rough, scaly skin patches that usually show up on the legs. Sometimes the condition can affect your arms, hands and trunk as well. If you have ichthyosis vulgaris, you may also see fine lines on your palm.
Severe cases of the disease can cause cracks in the skin that may be painful.
The symptoms of ichthyosis vulgaris usually improve in warm, humid climates. Cold and dry weather can increase skin flaking and scaling.
There is no cure for ichthyosis vulgaris, so treatment controls the symptoms.
Moisturizers and products that exfoliate dead skin cells may be applied topically to remove the scales.
You may also be prescribed an oral retinoid medication that reduces skin cell production. However, these drugs have some side effects, including inflammation of the eyes and lips and hair loss, so they are usually only given to patients with severe symptoms.