General Question

nayeight's avatar

Is there someone out there brave enough to look up info on "harlequin" babies for me?

Asked by nayeight (3347points) August 14th, 2008 from iPhone

My sister showed me a picture of a “harlequin” baby and it scared me. I mean I know they’re just babies but agh! (No offense to anyone out there who is, had, or knows a “harlequin” baby. I’m scared to look it up now but I’m curious. Does anyone know anything about “harlequin” babies? (no links to pictures please)

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9 Answers

MrMeltedCrayon's avatar

Quoted from wikipedia-

“Harlequin-type ichthyosis (also harlequin ichthyosis, ichthyosis congenita, Ichthyosis fetalis or keratosis diffusa fetalis), a skin disease, is the most severe form of congenital ichthyosis, characterized by a thickening of the keratin layer in fetal human skin. In sufferers of the disease, the skin contains massive, diamond-shaped scales, and tends to give off a reddish color. In addition, the eyes, ears, mouth, and other appendages may be abnormally contracted. The scaly keratin greatly limits the child’s movement. Because the skin is cracked where normal skin would fold, it is easily pregnable by bacteria and other contaminants, resulting in serious risk of fatal infection.

Sufferers are known as harlequin fetuses, harlequin babies, or harlequins.

The harlequin-type designation comes from both the baby’s apparent facial expression and the diamond-shape of the scales (resembling the costume of Arlecchino), which are caused by severe hyperkeratosis. The disease can be diagnosed in the uterus by way of fetal skin biopsy or by morphologic analysis of amniotic fluid cells obtained by amniocentesis. In addition, doctors can now usually recognize common features of the disease through ultrasound, and follow up with 3D ultrasound can diagnose the condition.”


“In the past, the disorder was invariably fatal, whether due to dehydration, infection (sepsis), restricted breathing due to the plating, or other related causes. The most common cause of death was systemic infection and sufferers rarely survived for more than a few days. However, there have been improvements in care, most notably the drug Isotrexadolescence. Some patients have survived into and, in very rare cases, lived to adulthood.”

The last bit surprised me. I thought it was basically 100% fatal, even today. It’s good that they’re developing treatments for it, though I’m now wondering what life would be like for a surviving harlequin baby.

nayeight's avatar

Thanks. I was just on my iphone and really couldn’t handle a picture of it popping up right now.

fullclip's avatar

I find it depressing. The fact that their skin is so fragile they don’t live long is depressing. I read a article about 2 sisters that have the disease. They take 2 hour long soaks in the morning so that their skin will be soft and they still have problems with their skin before the end of the day. They also shed their skin very often, at least 10 times more than those not affected.

augustlan's avatar

@bunkin: That was so sad, and very difficult to watch. I learned something new today, though, so thank you for posting it.

bunkin's avatar

I have never heard of this condition either. It is very sad.

augustlan's avatar

@naveight: Thanks for bringing this to our attention.

winblowzxp's avatar

It’s just as sad as babies born with cyclopia

redsgirl4eva's avatar

@ bumpkin thank you for posting video YES it was very sad but at least there is some hope for babies with Harlequin.

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