This is Ichthyosis Awareness Month and since hardly anyone is aware of it, I thought I’d do my little bit to publicise it.
Ichthyosis, literally “fish skin disease”, is an inherited condition where the skin does not produce the moisturising oils that keep most people’s skin smooth. The skin is scaly, like a fish. It peels, flakes and, if not treated carefully, is liable to infection.
I’m lucky, in the sense that my particular version of the disease is relatively mild. The scaly skin is mostly limited to my arms and legs, and only spreads to my torso and face during the winter months. A daily routine of washing several times a day followed by suitable creams and lotions can, mostly, keep it under control. A quick google search gives you a sense of just how bad it can get in extreme conditions.
As ichthyosis is rarely life threatening, there is very little research into it. There is no cure. Like me, most people simply find it inconvenient. Since you grow up with it, you don’t even find it embarrassing. Apart from the constant moisturising scheme, the main impact on my life is the amount of flakes of skin that I leave all over the house, on the carpet, my keyboard, everywhere basically.
You do have to be careful though. A thoughtless scratch will tear flakes of dry skin away, often leading to bleeding and pain. I discovered years ago that carrying a small bottle of hand sanitiser with me was ideal for preventing infections when this happens. When this disappeared from the shelves last year, I found myself in what I can only describe as a month long panic to try and find some.
So there you have it. If you weren’t previously aware of ichthyosis then you are now.