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Ichthyoses in everyday practice: management of a rare group of diseases.

Ichthyoses comprise a heterogeneous group of hereditary disorders of keratinization characterized by a highly varied clinical picture. A distinction is made between common hereditary ichthyoses (ichthyosis vulgaris and X-linked ichthyosis), which usually manifest themselves in the first year of life, and rare, sometimes severe congenital ichthyoses. Patients with very mild symptoms often do not even realize they have ichthyosis. The diagnosis is usually based on clinical evaluation. Molecular genetic testing as well as histological and electron microscopic studies may aid in confirming the diagnosis. Mapping a family tree is also diagnostically useful. Besides skin manifestations, important aspects of the clinical examination and history include disease onset, presence of a collodion membrane at birth as well as the presence of hair anomalies and extracutaneous signs and symptoms. Rigorous hydration of the skin (several times a day) and balneotherapy are the mainstay of ichthyosis treatment. For patients with severe disease, systemic acitretin treatment should be considered on a case-by-case basis. While ichthyoses are generally limited to the skin, there are syndromic forms that may affect other organs and that require interdisciplinarity cooperation. Although ichthyoses remain incurable, they can be managed well with symptomatic treatment. However, such treatment is frequently time consuming and expensive. In the future, novel therapeutic approaches might include enzyme replacement and gene therapies as well as antiinflammatory drugs.

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