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What treatments can help for ichthyosis?

Anthony L. Komaroff, MD
Internal Medicine
Ichthyosis is dry, flaky, scaly skin that can involve large areas of the body's surface. The scales may be tiny or large, like fish scales. The extreme skin dryness of ichthyosis can lead to itching, scratching, infection, and skin odor.

There are many types of ichthyosis. Most are inherited. Rare types are part of genetic "syndromes" that are associated with deafness, tooth disorders, hair disorders, or other problems. Some types that involve scales in the warm, moist creases of the skin (like the inner arms, backs of legs or underarms) are especially prone to infection and foul-smelling odor.

The following treatments are aimed at moisturizing and repairing the skin barrier:
  • Mineral oil
  • Petrolatum (similar to petroleum jelly)
  • Lotions that contain urea or alpha-hydroxy acids (such as lactic acid or glycolic acid)
People with skin odor from the bacterial infection may need to apply topical antiseptics or a prescription antibiotic. If the infection is more extensive, a doctor may prescribe an oral antibiotic.

Ichthyosis should be evaluated by a dermatologist. This doctor will determine the type, suggest the best treatment and look for associated syndromes.

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Important: This content reflects information from various individuals and organizations and may offer alternative or opposing points of view. It should not be used for medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. As always, you should consult with your healthcare provider about your specific health needs.