The skin protects as well as beautifies the body. Inherited skin disorders pose some serious challenges as they are not caused, and often not affected, by environmental factors and the patients often have to receive treatment for their hereditary dermal conditions throughout their lives to evade perennial physical and social discomfort.
That which is striking and beautiful is not always good, but that which is good is always beautiful. ~ Ninon de L’Enclos
True indeed! Speaking with reference to inherited skin disorders, the above quote rings true insomuch as you can make incorrigibly bad skin look beautiful for sometime by making dexterous use of cosmetic products that are designed to mask all dermal flaws and enhance the virtues of one’s features to give an appearance of near-perfection. The end result may be strikingly appealing, but the individual himself/herself known in his/her heart of hearts that these are but temporary cosmetic rituals that are effective in serving immediate purposes and do not promise any long-term solution to dermal issues that run in the family, so to say. So, what are inherited skin disorders and why are they so difficult to get rid of permanently? Well, in biological parlance, the words inherited and hereditary allude to traits, characteristics, conditions and quirks that are carried and passed on by genes from one generation to the next, especially so in case of consanguineous relatives. Let’s take a look at some common skin conditions and diseases that you are most likely to get if either of your parents or grandparents had them.
Some Common Inherited Skin Conditions
There are a lot of skin conditions that many of us face in our day-to-day life without realizing the fact that they have been genetically passed down to us by our parents. Most common examples of such runs-in-the-family skin conditions include acne, dandruff, excessively oily or dry skin, over sensitivity to UV rays, pigmentation, etc. Let’s take a look at these and some other common hereditary dermal conditions.
Vitiligo: Ever wondered why some people have a patchy appearance with random portions of their skin (especially on the hands and around the mouth and parts of the face) appearing strikingly lighter than their surroundings? Well, that is the most prominent symptom of vitiligo, also known as leucoderma, which is caused when the melanocytes (those cells that produce the color pigments of our skin) in certain areas of the skin die out, leading to depigmentation in those parts. Although this disease of the skin can be caused by issues of autoimmunity, viral infections, oxidative stress or issues of the nerves, a person who suffers from vitiligo is highly likely to genetically pass this condition on to his/her offspring.
Ichthyosis Vulgaris: Symptomized by dry, scaly, itchy patches of skin on various areas of the body, especially, the back, legs, chest, face and all areas where the sweat glands are most concentrated, this condition is caused by mutation of a single gene (that encodes the protein that binds to keratin fibers) which is then passed on from generation to generation. This is primarily among the most common inherited skin diseases that are rarely acquired firsthand.
Albinism: A complete absence of melanin from skin leading to an overall paling of the skin is known as albinism wherein sometimes even the eyes lack color pigments and appear extremely pale. This absence of melanin renders the skin extremely sensitive and even slight exposure to sunlight can cause burning sensations and induce sunburns to the individual suffering from this congenital dermal disorder.
Ectodermal Dysplasia: This condition includes a group of syndromes affecting the formation and structure of ectodermal structures such as hair, nails, teeth, sweat glands and the skin. The common symptoms include sparse and pale hair on scalp and body, thickened, misshapen and discolored finger and toenails, inability to perspire due to abnormality of sweat glands functions, misshapen or absent teeth and defective enamel, lightly pigmented skin with a tendency towards hypo pigmentation on sites of dermal injury, etc. Besides these, various other abnormalities can be noticed in the cranial and facial structures, often accompanied by issues pertaining to vision and the eyes.
Cutaneous Porphyria: Primarily a disorder of the blood involving a primary red blood cell pigment, porphyrin, porphyria is characterized by an overproduction and accumulation of these pigments which leads to a lot of undesirable neurological as well as dermal conditions such as seizures, photo sensitivity, abdominal pain, cardiac disorders, psychological disorders such as depression and anxiety, dermal necrosis, blisters, etc. Cutaneous porphyria is caused by over accumulation of porphyrin in the dermal layer leading increased growth of hair on the forehead, necrosis (cellular death) in the gums and other parts of the skin, sensitivity to light and heat, etc.
The most prevalent and unbelievably common hereditary condition happens to be Seborrhea which is characterized by overproduction of oil by the sebaceous glands in the skin which leads to a greasy appearance of the skin. Seborrhea is the mother of a lot of other mundane skin issues such as acne, pimples, blackhead, dandruff, etc. Some other hereditary dermal conditions include Xeroderma Pigmentosa (insufficient skin pigments around the eyes and on the eyelids), Ehlers-Danlos Conditions (a connective tissue disorder that affects tissues of the skin, blood vessels and joints), Incontinentia Pigmenti (excessive melanin deposits at various regions such as skin, nails, teeth and hair), Neurofibromatosis (growth of tumors, mostly benign, on nerve tissues putting pressure to surrounding regions and appearing as tiny boils pushing skin outwards from underneath), etc.