What is Ectodermal Dysplasia?

Harriette Halepis

Ectodermal dysplasia is not only one condition, but rather a group of conditions that result in abnormal skin, hair, nails, teeth, or sweat glands. This condition is caused by defective family genes that are often passed on from generation to generation. More often than not, men are affected by this disorder, though both women and men can be affected.

Children with ectodermal dysplasia may have a higher temperature for a minor illness.
Children with ectodermal dysplasia may have a higher temperature for a minor illness.

Most people who suffer from ectodermal dysplasia cannot sweat. This can cause numerous problems including increased fevers due to minor illnesses, since the body cannot effectively cool itself through sweat. When ectodermal dysplasia occurs in children, the condition can even be life-threatening.

Adults who are affected by ectodermal dysplasia are unable to tolerate hot and humid environments. When placed in a warm environment, these adults must take special precautions in order to cool down. In addition to the inability to sweat, various other physical abnormalities may occur.

Missing or abnormal teeth, thin hair, abnormal fingernails, diluted skin color, a large forehead, poor hearing, and decreased vision are some of the signs of ectodermal dysplasia. However, in order to properly detect this disease, specific tests must be conducted. These tests include a biopsy of the mucus membranes, a biopsy of the skin, and genetic testing.

Presently, there is no cure or treatment for this ailment, though various procedures are constantly in development. Some things that can be done to alleviate high levels of discomfort include wearing a wig, living in a cool climate, and using nasal sprays in order to clear up any nasal blockage. In most cases, this condition will not shorten an individual's lifespan, though it can be a difficult condition to live with.

Certain other ailments can surface if ectodermal dysplasia is not carefully monitored. Brain damage and seizures caused by high temperatures can occur. Couples with a family history of this disorder should consult with a genetic counselor prior to having children. More often than not, children of parents with a family history of ectodermal dysplasia are likely to contract the condition as well.

Parents of children suffering from this illness should pay extra attention to a child's body temperature. If a rise in body temperature does occur, it is best to treat a child with ice packs, a cool bath, and anything else that may lower a child's temperature. If a child's temperature continues to rise, medical attention should be sought immediately.

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