An 8 year-old boy covered head to toe in dry, scaly skin has brought a genetic skin disorder to light.
Pan Xianhang, known as “Fish Boy” in his Chinese village, has ichthyosis, a skin disorder named after the Greek root word for fish. Characterized by dry, scaling skin, the disorder usually presents itself at birth and can lead to medical complications like infections, chronic blistering and dehydration, according to First Skin Foundation.
Photos of Xianhang, who was born in Wenling, China, show scaly skin covering his head, chest and arms. The condition reportedly affects the shape of his eyes, nose, mouth and ears – it limits the movement of his arms and legs, The Sun reports.
The boy’s mother told El Periodico that she wants her son to be able to go to school without the constant need to scratch.
According to a recent study, at least 200 babies born in the U.S. have a moderate to severe form of ichthyosis. While no cure has been found, doctors normally prescribe moisturizers and ointments that help control symptoms, according to the Mayo Clinic.
"Early diagnosis and intervention, by both pediatric dermatologists and pediatricians, may improve quality of life," Dr. Jennifer T. Huang said about patients with the condition. According to a recent study, 66 percent of children with ichthyosis had hearing problems.
Hunter Steinitz, an 18-year-old from Pittsburgh, has a similar condition called harlequin ichthyosis. Her skin is thick and she has dry patches covering her body. The symptoms prevent her from closing her eyes, and she needs to wear a wig since her hair follicles are blocked by thick layers of skin, which stop her from sweating, the Daily Mail reports.
“My skin doesn't contain any of the fatty moisture everyone else has between their skin cells, like mortar between bricks in houses,” Steinitz said. “All I have is the bricks.”
Despite being bullied at school, Steinitz said she’s committed to teaching others about her condition. “Harlequin gives us such a jarring appearance, and people are so shocked, they don't know what to do,” she said. “We're trying to teach people that they can't catch it -- we're not contagious. It's OK to be different, and it's OK for people not to fit the norm.”