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Who Can Suffer From Phrynoderma & Is it Curable?

What is Phrynoderma?

Ailments of the human body can be of various types. Some of them are caused due to bacteria, some due to virulent viruses, and many others due to a genetic mutation of the body cells. However, there is a large category of ailments and diseases that occur due to malnutrition and nutritional deficiency. Phrynoderma is one such disease that is the result of nutritional deficiency.

Phrynoderma is one of the main forms of follicular hyperkeratosis which is predominantly the outcome of vitamin A deficiency. Several types of research have been done into this domain and the medical fraternity is of the opinion that Phrynoderma is often the result of severe malnutrition and can be an outcome of deficiency of multiple numbers of vitamins such as vitamin E, vitamin B, and fatty acids. Phrynoderma hence is always not the outcome of deficiency of vitamin A but has multiple etiologies and deficiency of the other nutrients.[1]

Who Can Suffer From Phrynoderma?

Who Can Suffer From Phrynoderma?

Phrynoderma is a nutritional deficiency disorder that is often reported amongst the children in poverty-stricken countries of Asia and Africa. This disease is quite rare in developed countries. It is necessary to know what kind of people suffer from phrynoderma. Children and even adults who have a history of having a poor dietary intake for a span of one to two years or those who do not consume enough vegetables, fruits, and fats in their diet can often get affected by this deficiency. This condition can also be triggered by certain other factors such as the following ones:

  • Malabsorption of food in the intestines
  • Fad diets
  • Anorexia nervosa
  • A previous surgery related to small bowel bypass or bariatric surgery history of alcoholic abuse
  • Inflammatory bowel disease
  • Pancreatic insufficiency and other chronic gall bladder related problems.

Phrynoderma often affects the skin of the person resulting in pigmentation and formation of plaque on the skin of the patient. In children, this formation happens in different parts of the body such as the hands, back and the buttock. Even amongst the adults, these signs can appear in different parts of the body. However, the face seldom gets affected. In most of the cases, the face does not have any marks and no signs of the condition will be visible on the face as such.

How to Identify Phrynoderma?

In phrynoderma, either a mildly symptomatic or an asymptomatic follicular hyperkeratosis occurs. As a result, follicular papules of different sizes that have central keratotic plugs often blocks the openings of the follicles and develops on the skin of the affected area. Such new patches can often occur in different parts of the body with a passage of time. These patches are more likely to appear on areas like the back of elbow, the front of the knees and can spread to thighs and upper forearms. Patches can also appear on the abdomen. The palms and the feet are spared in the process.

Since this condition occurs due to vitamin deficiency, in many cases the disease can also get accompanied by night blindness or an inability to see in very bright light.

Patients having phrynoderma can also develop other complications to eyes such as dryness of the cornea and conjunctiva and ridge formation and inflammation. Patients can also develop symptoms such as Bitot spots or grey and white patches on the conjunctivae and drying of the cornea with a clouding effect. This can also lead to blindness. Vitamin A and other vitamin deficiencies can also lead to delayed growth and also to mental retardation in certain cases. Phrynoderma is a condition that can also lead to problems of scarring and persistent hyperpigmentation.

Is Phrynoderma Curable?

Phrynoderma is a deficiency disorder that can even be diagnosed by a physician and treated appropriately. Knowing what kind of people suffer from phrynoderma helps to take appropriate steps. However, phrynoderma is curable, especially if it has not caused any permanent damage.

Since this is a nutritional deficiency disease, management of the diet and the nutrition intake is one of the main aspects of the treatment of the ailment. Hence, mere eating food rich in vitamin A, B, and E is not enough. Having vitamin supplements based on medical advice is very important to make up for the deficiency. In addition to the same, vitamin A-rich food items are also advisable to maintain dietary intake of essential nutrients. You can eat items like carrot, egg yolk, spinach, and liver.

Ointments and creams with keratolytic agents can also be applied at the affected regions of plaque formation. These ointments can come in the form of creams or even gels. These provide momentary relief to the surface charring and resulting pain.

It is really important that phrynoderma is diagnosed and is treated from the very beginning. Depending upon the nature and the extent of the spread, the treatment will need to be continued. Phrynoderma is curable and you can return to a normal life with the right treatment and diet. However, if the condition is left untreated then phrynoderma can also lead to permanent eye damage that can hamper your life to a great extent.


Proper dietary intake is one of the best ways that you can maintain proper health. This is a fact that has been proven in many cases and condition of human deficiency diseases. Phrynoderma is just one of them. This is a problem that can be found in people of different ages. Prolonged malnutrition and inadequate intake of vitamin A, B, E, and fatty acids can lead to this condition. Phrynoderma is quite curable; however, the span of the treatment can be a prolonged one. It is possible that you may develop this ailment even if you are not economically distressed or nutritionally deficient in terms of intake. This could be due to an imbalanced dietary intake, negligence of health or inappropriate absorption of nutrients. This may need detailed evaluation and treatment. It is important to maintain a nutritious diet and a healthy lifestyle.


Pramod Kerkar, M.D., FFARCSI, DA
Pramod Kerkar, M.D., FFARCSI, DA
Written, Edited or Reviewed By: Pramod Kerkar, M.D., FFARCSI, DA Pain Assist Inc. This article does not provide medical advice. See disclaimer
Last Modified On:October 16, 2019

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