THIS eight-year-old has been nicknamed ‘fish boy’ by neighbours – because he’s covered from head to toe in thick, itchy scales.
Pan Xianhang was born in Wenling, China with a rare genetic skin disease known as Ichthyosis, after the ancient Greek word for fish.
Ichthyosis (plural Ichthyoses) is a heterogeneous family of at least 28 generalized, mostly genetic skin disorders.
All types of ichthyosis have dry, thickened, scaly or flaky skin. In many types there is cracked skin, which is said to resemble the scales on a fish. The severity of symptoms can vary enormously, from the mildest types such as ichthyosis vulgaris which may be mistaken for normal dry skin up to life-threatening conditions such as harlequin type ichthyosis. The most common type of ichthyosis is ichthyosis vulgaris, accounting for more than 95% of cases.
Most sufferers develop dry scaly skin across part of their body, but Pan’s case is severe: his scales have affected the shape of his eyes, nose, mouth and ears – and they limit the movement of his arms and legs.
The condition also means he’s in constant pain and struggles to sleep at night because of the itching.
Sufferers are treated with creams, oils and moisturisers, which are designed to hydrate the skin.
Liz Dale a spokesperson for the UK-based Ichthyosis Support Group said: “There is no known cure and treatments for ichthyosis are predominantly keeping the skin moisturised with plenty of emollients i.e. lotions and creams.
“The skin needs to be moisturized to prevent it from further drying out, which could cause the skin to crack, making it more prone to infection, which may be fatal.”
It is estimated that each year, more than 16,000 babies are born with some form of Ichthyosis, varying in severity of symptoms, according to Foundation for Ichthyosis & Related Skin Types.
Even as Doctors are currently looking into other ways to treat the him, Pan is not the first to make headlines for this stifling disease.
Metro reports on a 2012 documentary called ’The Boy They Call Fish’, which highlighted the story of a severely mentally handicapped 18-year-old Vietnamese orphan, Minh Anh, who suffers from the same disease in a special ward of a Saigon hospital.