What Is Peeling Skin Syndrome

  • Maha AwanBachelor of Medicine, Bachelor of Surgery - MBBS, Medicine, Sulaiman Al Rajhi University
  • Irenosen AddehMaster of Science (MSc), Public Health, University of Debrecen, Hungary

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Peeling skin syndrome: an overview

Peeling skin syndrome, also known as exfoliative ichthyosis, is a rare genetic disorder characterised by excessive shedding of the outermost layer of the skin. The condition is often present at birth or shortly after, and it can affect individuals of any age and ethnicity.1

It is characterised by the shedding of the outermost layer of the skin, leading to extreme discomfort and distress. According to a study published in the Journal of the European Academy of Dermatology and Venereology, mutations in the TGM1 gene have been identified as one of the primary causes of skin peeling syndrome.4

Symptoms of peeling skin syndrome

The primary symptom of Peeling Skin Syndrome is the constant shedding of skin, often in large sheets. According to the article "Peeling skin syndrome. Definitions," published in 2020, this syndrome is described as a condition where the skin peels off in large sheets due to genetic mutation.2 This shedding is accompanied by redness, inflammation, and itching. Individuals with this syndrome may also experience pain and discomfort because of the fragility of the affected skin.

Common signs

While the common symptoms of this syndrome include dryness, scaling, and peeling off the skin, several uncommon symptoms and complications, can arise. One such symptom is blistering, which can occur when the skin becomes fragile and easily damaged. Blistering can lead to further discomfort and pain for individuals with skin peeling syndrome.3

In addition to blistering, infection is another potential complication of this condition. Due to the compromised skin barrier, individuals with skin peeling syndrome are at a higher risk of developing infections. Bacteria and other pathogens can quickly easily enter the body through the damaged skin, leading to localised or systemic infections.3

Lastly, skin sensitivity is another uncommon symptom of this syndrome. The shedding of the outer layers of the skin can result in increased sensitivity to touch, temperature changes, and various irritants. This heightened sensitivity can further exacerbate discomfort and affect the overall quality of life for individuals with skin peeling syndrome.3

Diagnosis of peeling skin syndrome

Accurate diagnosis is crucial for effective management of peeling skin syndrome. Dermatologists and other healthcare professionals use various methods to identify this condition. In the article mentioned earlier, the authors stress the importance of taking a comprehensive medical history and conducting a physical examination to begin the diagnostic process.2 A thorough medical history, physical examination, and careful observation of the symptoms are typically the first steps in the diagnostic process.

Methods used to diagnose the condition

Different diagnostic tests may be conducted to confirm the presence of peeling skin syndrome. Skin biopsies are often performed to examine the microscopic structure of the skin and rule out other possible skin disorders. Genetic testing may also be recommended to identify specific gene mutations associated with this syndrome.

Treatment options for peeling skin syndrome

While there is currently no cure for Peeling Skin Syndrome, available to manage its symptoms and improve the quality of life for affected individuals. Treatment approaches primarily focus on alleviating discomfort, preventing infections, and promoting skin healing. Emollients, topical corticosteroids, and antibiotics are commonly prescribed.

These are frequently prescribed to relieve discomfort, prevent infections, and promote skin healing. Additionally, specialised wound care techniques may be employed in more severe cases to manage the condition effectively. However, the suitability of these treatments may vary on a case-by-case basis and should be discussed with medical professionals.

Available medical interventions

In severe cases where conventional treatments fail to provide relief, more aggressive medical interventions might be considered. These may include oral retinoids, immunosuppressive drugs, and specialised wound care techniques. However, the suitability of such interventions varies on a case-by-case basis and should be discussed thoroughly with medical professionals.

Living with peeling skin syndrome

Peeling skin syndrome is a challenging condition that significantly impacts the lives of those affected. The constant shedding of skin and the associated symptoms can lead to physical discomfort, psychological distress, and social isolation.

Establishing a multidisciplinary support system, including medical professionals, mental health specialists, and support groups, is essential to assist individuals in coping with the challenges of living with this syndrome. Raising awareness about peeling skin syndrome is crucial to fostering empathy, understanding, and acceptance within society.


Is peeling skin syndrome contagious? 

No, PSS is not contagious. It is a genetic disorder caused by mutations in specific genes and cannot be transmitted from person to person.

Can peeling skin syndrome be cured? 

Currently, there is no known cure for PSS. Treatment mainly focuses on managing the symptoms and preventing complications. This may involve regular moisturisation, gentle skin care, avoiding triggers, and using protective measures to prevent skin damage.

Is peeling skin syndrome life-threatening? 

In most cases, PSS is not life-threatening. However, it can significantly impact a person's quality of life due to chronic skin peeling and associated symptoms. In rare cases, complications such as skin infections or dehydration may require medical attention.

Can peeling skin syndrome be prevented?

Since PSS is a genetic disorder, it cannot be prevented. However, early diagnosis and appropriate management can help minimise symptoms and prevent complications.


Peeling Skin Syndrome (PSS), also known as exfoliative ichthyosis, is a rare genetic disorder caused by mutations in the TGM1 gene, leading to excessive skin shedding, redness, inflammation, and itching. Diagnosis involves medical history, physical examination, skin biopsies, and genetic testing. While there is no cure, treatments focus on symptom management with emollients, corticosteroids, antibiotics, and specialized wound care.

Severe cases may need oral retinoids or immunosuppressive drugs. Living with PSS can cause significant physical and psychological challenges, necessitating multidisciplinary support and increased societal awareness.


  1. A homozygous missense mutation in TGM5 abolishes epidermal transglutaminase 5 activity and causes acral peeling skin syndrome. https://www.cell.com/ajhg/pdf/S00 02-9297(07)63377-1.pdf
  2. Peeling skin syndrome. Definitions [Internet]. 2020 Feb 10; Available from: http://dx.doi.org/10.32388/s1gdqk
  3. Review in peeling complications.https://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/abs/10.1111/jocd.12329
  4. M Safali., E Koç."Peeling skin diseases: 21 cases from Turkey and a review of the literature." https://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/ab s/10.1111/j.1468-3083.2011.04166.x

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This content is purely informational and isn’t medical guidance. It shouldn’t replace professional medical counsel. Always consult your physician regarding treatment risks and benefits. See our editorial standards for more details.

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Maha Awan

Bachelor of Medicine, Bachelor of Surgery - MBBS, Medicine, Sulaiman Al Rajhi University

As a medical student with a keen interest in medical communication, I am driven by an unwavering commitment to the healthcare industry. My passion for serving the public through the provision of accurate and reliable medical information knows no bounds. I am thrilled to apply my knowledge and skills to create a meaningful impact on individuals' lives.

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