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Dermatol Ther. 2013 Jan-Feb;26(1):26-38. doi: 10.1111/j.1529-8019.2012.01527.x.

Systemic retinoids in the management of ichthyoses and related skin types.

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DNA Repair Section, Dermatology Branch, Center for Cancer Research, National Cancer Institute, National Institutes of Health, Bethesda, MD 20892, USA.


The term retinoid includes both natural and synthetic derivatives of vitamin A. Retinoid-containing treatments have been used since ~1550BC by the early Egyptians. Treatment of ichthyosiform disorders with retinoids dates back at least to the 1930s. Early use of high-dose vitamin A demonstrated efficacy, but because vitamin A is stored in the liver, toxicity limited usefulness. Interest turned to synthetic retinoids in an effort to enhance efficacy and limit toxicity. Acetretin, isotretinoin and, in the past etretinate, have provided the most effective therapy for ichthyosiform conditions. They have been used for a variety of ages, including in newborns with severe ichthyosis and for decades in some patients. Careful surveillance and management of mucous membrane, laboratory, skeletal, and teratogenic side effects has made systemic retinoids the mainstay of therapy for ichthyosis and related skin types.

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