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Chromosomes and DNA
Chromosomes and DNA


Definition:

Xeroderma pigmentosa is a rare condition passed down through families in which the skin and tissue covering the eye are extremely sensitive to ultraviolet light.



Causes, incidence, and risk factors:

Ultraviolet light -- such as that found in sunlight -- damages the genetic material (DNA) in skin cells. Normally, the body repairs this damage. But in persons with xeroderma pigmentosa, the body does not fix the damage. As a result, the skin gets very thin and patches of varying color (splotchy pigmentation) appear.

The condition also causes spidery blood vessels in the skin (telangiectasia ) and skin cancer. Skin cancer often occurs before the child is 5 years old.



Symptoms:
  • Sunburn that does not heal after just a little bit of sun exposure
  • Blistering after just a little bit of sun exposure
  • Spider-like blood vessels under the skin
  • Patches of discolored skin that get worse
  • Crusting of the skin
  • Scaling of the skin
  • Oozing raw skin surface
  • Discomfort when being in bright light (photophobia )


Signs and tests:

The doctor will perform a physical exam and ask if you have a family history of xeroderma pigmentosa.

An eye exam may show:

The following tests can help diagnose the condition in a baby before the birth:

  • Amniocentesis
  • Chorionic villous sampling
  • Culture of amniotic cells

The following tests can help diagnose the disorder after the birth of the child:



Treatment:

Children with this condition need total protection from sunlight. Even the light coming through windows and fluorescent bulbs is dangerous.

When these children must go out in the sun, they should wear protective clothing.

Wear high protection (SPF 70 or greater) sunscreen and very dark, UV-protected glasses. Your doctor may prescribe medicine to help prevent certain skin cancers.



Support Groups:

Xeroderma Pigmentosum Society -- www.xps.org

XP Family Support Group -- www.xpfamilysupport.org



Expectations (prognosis):

Most persons with this condition die of skin cancer early in adulthood.



Complications:
  • Change in appearance of skin (disfigurement)
  • Skin cancer


Calling your health care provider:

Call for an appointment with your health care provider if you or your child has symptoms of xeroderma pigmentosa.



Prevention:

Experts recommend genetic counseling for persons with a family history of xeroderma pigmentosa who wish to have children.



References:

Abeloff MD, Armitage JO, Niederhuber JE, Kastan MB, McKena WG. Clinical Oncology. 3rd ed. Orlando, Fl: Churchill Livingstone; 2004.

Kumar V, Abbas AK, Fausto N. Robbins and Cotran Pathologic Basis of Disease. 7th ed. St. Louis, Mo: WB Saunders; 2005.




Review Date: 5/7/2009
Reviewed By: Michael Lehrer, MD, Department of Dermatology, University of Pennsylvania Medical Center, Philadelphia, Pa. Review provided by VeriMed Healthcare Network. Also reviewed by David Zieve, MD, MHA, Medical Director, A.D.A.M., Inc.

The information provided herein should not be used during any medical emergency or for the diagnosis or treatment of any medical condition. A licensed medical professional should be consulted for diagnosis and treatment of any and all medical conditions. Call 911 for all medical emergencies. Links to other sites are provided for information only -- they do not constitute endorsements of those other sites. © 1997- A.D.A.M., Inc. Any duplication or distribution of the information contained herein is strictly prohibited.
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Wentworth-Douglass Hospital
789 Central Avenue, Dover, NH 03820
Phone: (603) 742-5252
Toll free: 1 (877) 201-7100