Eight-year-old boy, Pan Xianhang has been nicknamed ‘fish boy’ by neighbours because he is covered from head to toe in thick, itchy scales. He was born in Wenling, China with a rare genetic skin disease known as Ichthyosis, after the ancient Greek word for fish. Ichthyosis 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. 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 him, Pan is not the first to make headlines for this stifling disease.