Xeroderma pigmentosum is a rare condition passed down through families in which the skin and tissue covering the eye are extremely sensitive to ultraviolet light.
Xeroderma pigmentosum is an autosomal recessive disorder. This means you must have two copies of an abnormal gene in order for the disease or trait to develop.
Ultraviolet light, such as from sunlight, damages the genetic material (DNA) in skin cells. Normally, the body repairs this damage. But in persons with xeroderma pigmentosum, the body does not fix the damage. As a result, the skin gets very thin and patches of varying color (splotchy pigmentation) appear.
The condition also causes spidery blood vessels in the skin (telangiectasia) and skin cancer. Skin cancer often occurs before the child is 5 years old.
Sunburn that does not heal after just a little bit of sun exposure
Blistering after just a little bit of sun exposure
Schadt C, Fine JD. Genetic disorders predisposing to skin malignancy. In: Rigel DS, Robinson JK, Ross M, et al. eds. Cancer of the Skin. 2nd ed. Philadelphia, Pa: Elsevier Saunders; 2011:chap 33.
Kevin Berman, MD, PhD, Atlanta Center for Dermatologic Disease, Atlanta, GA. Review provided by VeriMed Healthcare Network. Also reviewed by David Zieve, MD, MHA, Bethanne Black, and the A.D.A.M. Editorial team.