Xeroderma versus Xeroderma Pigmentosum

Xeroderma is the name for the condition characterized by dry skin or xerosis. It’s a term for ordinary dry skin usually caused by old age, dry or cold weather, or atopic dermatitis. It is quite different from another condition called xeroderma pigmentosum.

Xeroderma

Xerosis is not a life-threatening condition but it could be a result of the use of harsh skin products which dry out the skin. It’s also a symptom of eczema or atopic dermatitis, which is a chronic condition that causes inflammation and itchiness. If that is the case, then you should consult a dermatologist to get proper treatment. Otherwise, ordinary dry skin can be avoided by applying moisturizers that contain glycerin, mineral oil, petroleum jelly, salicylic acid, or lactic acid.

Xeroderma Pigmentosum

Xeroderma pigmentosum runs in families and it is a dangerous condition which makes a person vulnerable to the effects of the ultraviolet rays from the sun. This means that when a person is exposed to sun, he/she does not have the ability to repair the damage to the DNA. It is also not uncommon for people with XP to experience problems in hearing, vision, coordination, and intellectual function.

If not properly diagnosed and treated, they are prone to a lot of complications including cancer and cataracts. The name xeroderma pigmentosum comes from the first symptoms of the illness which are dry skin and pigmentation or changes in skin color after being exposed to sunlight.

Causes and Risk Factors of XP

Because xeroderma pigmentosum is an inherited disorder, this means it can be passed down to the next generation. Based on ongoing research, at least 8 genes are associated with the condition. It is more likely that a child who inherits the mutation from both parents will suffer from the symptoms. If only one copy of the mutation is inherited, the person will not necessarily experience the symptoms. Although it’s a rare condition, it’s not uncommon in some parts of Asia.

Signs of XP usually appear during infancy especially after being exposed to sunlight even just for a few minutes. The severe sunburn and blistering is the first sign of an abnormality, and by the time the child is a toddler, he/she will have freckles in areas of the skin that are often exposed to sunlight. Besides a photosensitive skin, the child will also have joint pain or arthralgia, cognitive impairment, and conjunctival telangiectasia.

Complications and Treatment of XP

This extreme sensitivity to sunlight makes them vulnerable to skin cancer, especially around the face and scalp. It’s not unusual for children to go through multiple skin cancers even before they reach adulthood. They are also at risk of developing other types of cancer like eye cancer. It’s not clear why a lot of children with XP also develop neurological abnormalities that worsen over time.

The child may suffer from seizures, loss of intellectual function, difficulty talking, poor coordination, difficulty swallowing, and others. Treatment therefore is aimed at protecting the child from the complications. Regular examinations are required to monitor and stop progress of cancerous tissue and skin lesions as well as constant protection from UV light. Neurological examination and psychosocial treatment will help the person cope with daily life.

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