Ichthyosis Vulgaris is an inherited skin ailment wherein the outermost dermal tissues fail to shed the dead cells, resulting in them accumulating on the external surface forming a crusty flaking mass. Since this dense scaly layer of skin resembles the body of a fish, this genetic skin disease is also termed fish scale disease or fish skin disease. Usually, this condition develops in little kids, sometimes being present right from birth and in most cases, is very mild, disappearing on its own in the early period of childhood.

However, certain instances of fish scale disease are very intense, with prominent peeling skin in the back, shoulder, arms, legs, abdomen and require proper treatment to keep skin moisturised and manage discomforting symptoms. Moreover, ichthyosis is also associated with other allergic skin conditions such as eczema.

Also Read: Learn About Factors That Trigger Eczema
Ichthyosis Vulgaris

Causes Of Ichthyosis Vulgaris:

Ichthyosis Vulgaris is an inherited illness affecting the skin and the scaly condition can be passed on to the child from either one or both parents with faulty genes. If the kid develops this disease from just one parent, the symptoms tend to be milder, but when it is triggered by genetic defects obtained from both parents, the disease is rather severe.

In rare cases, ichthyosis vulgaris develops on its own in adults and is referred to as acquired ichthyosis. It is induced by chronic conditions such as cancer, HIV infection, kidney problems and thyroid disorders, or even from taking potent prescription medications to treat other pre-existing illnesses.

Ichthyosis vulgaris also occurs alongside other skin diseases, namely keratosis pilaris, atopic dermatitis, psoriasis and eczema, instigating incessant itching, redness, peeling and rashes.

Also Read: Keratosis Pilaris: Causes, Symptoms And Treatment


Most often, the signs of ichthyosis vulgaris develop in the elbows and lower legs, wherein the skin layers are thicker. The condition worsens in winter due to the cold dry climate and the flaking in the skin is much lesser in hot and humid summers.

Nevertheless, it also triggers peeling, bleeding and cracks in the skin in the hands and feet in grave instances, besides flaking and scaling of external layers in the shoulders, abdomen and back. The distinct indications of ichthyosis vulgaris are:

  • Extreme dryness and scaly patches on the skin
  • Peeling dermal tissues with patterns similar to tiles
  • Discoloured skin tissues in shades of white, grey, brown
  • Itching, redness and rashes on skin in hands, legs, body, scalp
  • Intense tender cracks on the outermost layer of skin’s surface consisting of keratin


The dermatologist, who is the doctor specializing in treating skin ailments, analyses the external signs of peeling and scaly patches in the patient. They also enquire if there is any family medical history of ichthyosis vulgaris or other skin disorders.

Questions about the age at which first symptoms were spotted on the skin and which areas of the body the indications appear are also posed to the patient to obtain a clear understanding of the extent of the disease. A skin biopsy is also performed, wherein a patch of affected skin tissue is excised and studied under the microscope, to rule out the possibility of other related skin conditions of psoriasis, dermatitis, eczema.


There is no known cure for ichthyosis vulgaris. Depending upon the severity of symptoms, the dermatologist suggests pertinent medications. Furthermore, very mild cases tend to diminish on their own as the child grows older.

If symptoms of scalp skin are quite prominent and persistent, causing pain and discomfort, the doctor prescribes oral medications of vitamin A derivatives called retinoids, which help to lower the formation and accumulation of layers of skin tissues. Topical lotions of exfoliating creams, gels, ointments with alpha hydroxy acids like lactic acid, glycolic acid extracts are also prescribed to manage scaling in the skin and infuse moisture to dry tissues.

Besides these, simple home remedies of gently exfoliating skin with loofahs while showering, applying nourishing moisturisers to keep skin hydrated and using humidifiers when indoors in dry environments keeps the discomforting scaling, itching, peeling skin in ichthyosis vulgaris under control.