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Ichthyosis is a chronic, genetic condition that causes skin to become very dry, flaky, and scaly. It can be itchy, painful, and lead to significant discomfort during regular daily activities. Choosing the best ichthyosis treatment depends on the severity and the specific subtype of the disorder. Many people find relief by using prescription or over-the-counter moisturizing creams and using pumice stones to remove excess dead skin. It is important to speak with a dermatologist or primary care doctor before starting any type of ichthyosis treatment to make sure it will be safe and effective.
A dermatologist can usually diagnose ichthyosis with a simple physical exam. He or she may ask about symptoms, the length of time a patient has experienced skin problems, any known triggers that make the condition worse, and whether or not the patient has a family history of skin disorders. Most types of ichthyosis are treated similarly, though it is important for the doctor to know exactly what kind of problems a person has to tailor the best possible treatment plan.
An individual with mild ichthyosis may be instructed to buy over-the-counter moisturizers and try a few different home remedies to relieve symptoms. Dry skin usually responds well to daily applications of creams, ointments, and lotions that contain alpha hydroxy acids and lactic acids. Doctors encourage their patients to bathe daily and apply skin creams within a few minutes of getting out of the bath or shower to help trap valuable moisture.
Careful use of a pumice stone while the skin is damp can safely get rid of the outer layers of dead skin and help moisture reach the healthy layers underneath. Ichthyosis can cause the skin on the elbows, heels, palms, and elsewhere on the body to become very thick. Pumice stones grind away dead cells, making the skin softer and helping it achieve a uniform feel and color.
Prescription ichthyosis treatment is available for people with more severe skin problems. High-strength oral and topical retinoid medications are popular choices for ichthyosis treatment because they slow the production of new skin cells. Retinoids are derivatives of vitamin A, an important nutrient for skin health. They significantly delay the turnover rate of skin cells so that dead, dry patches do not form as easily. Other topical ointments, such as salicylic acid, are sometimes prescribed to exfoliate the skin.
A person can supplement medical ichthyosis treatment with smart choices regarding hygiene and activity. It is important to avoid using strong soaps, perfumes, and deodorants on dry skin because they can cause further irritation and slow the healing process. If sunlight tends to make symptoms worse, an individual should wear proper clothing and use sunscreen when venturing outdoors. Ichthyosis cannot be cured, but taking steps to avoid aggravating the condition can lead to impressive symptom improvement.