What Is Xeroderma Pigmentosum And What Are Its Symptoms?
Xeroderma pigmentosum (XP) is a genetic disorder which causes those who have it to be extremely sensitive to sunlight. This sensitivity leaves XP sufferers at high risk for cancer as their bodies have minimal or no ability to repair the damage made to their skin and eyes that is caused by ultraviolet light from the sun.
Many of those who have XP are prone to developing blisters and a severe sunburn that lasts for up to several weeks after even a very short exposure to the sun. Further, those who have XP typically develop many freckles, sometimes all over their bodies, at a very young age. Other skin problems that usually appear include abnormal dark spots, excessive dryness, thin skin, and rough growths, which are known as solar keratoses.
Eye problems that XP sufferers frequently develop include photophobia (which is extreme eye sensitivity to sunlight and well-lit areas), keratitis (inflammation of the eye's cornea), loss of eyelashes and even wasting of the eye lids in the worst cases.
Roughly 30 percent of those who have XP also have one or more symptoms that affect the nervous system. These problems include abnormal thickening and thinning of certain areas of the brain, progressive hearing loss, and progressive loss of the ability to perceive, speak, remember, and think.
Risk of cancer also is a serious concern. XP sufferers under the age of 20 are 1000 times more likely to develop skin cancer and cancer of the eye than are other individuals of the same age group. In fact, it is very common to see non-melanoma skin cancer prior to age 10 in XP patients.