Human Anatomy – Skin

human-anatomy-skinCovering 20 sq. feet of the body, the skin is the largest of the organs. It encases everything inside the body, and protects them from the elements. It also regulates the temperature of the body and gives the sense of touch.

What you see on the outside is the epidermis, the skin’s outermost layer. Giving the skin its waxy, waterproof coating, the epidermis is the site of the melanocytes. These are the cells that produce melanin, which gives the skin its color.

Two other skin layers lie underneath the epidermis, namely the dermis and the hypodermis. The former is directly beneath the epidermis, containing the sweat glands and hair follicles.

New cells are built between the dermis and the epidermis. They move upwards to the surface, upon reaching which they die. The skin on the outside, therefore, is made of dead cells.

Skin diseases and conditions

Nearly all people in the world have gone through acne, the most common condition of the skin. Teenagers mostly get this condition, which is characterized by bumps known as pimples, whiteheads and blackheads. If a pimple becomes filled with pus, it is called a pustule.

Doctors generally call changes in the skin as rashes. Most rashes stem from a minor irritation, while others have underlying conditions. Psoriasis is one such underlying condition, an autoimmune disease characterized by scales on the skin. Rosacea is another such condition, which causes a telltale red rash on the face, oft-mistaken for acne. Viruses may also cause rashes, as in exantham, a common skin infection among children.

Eczema, a kind of skin inflammation, causes itchy rashes. Its most common form is atopic dermatitis.

In general, inflammation of the skin is called dermatitis. When the inflammation reaches the dermis and subcutaneous tissues, it is called cellulitis.

But dermatitis bodes less cause for worry than cancer of the skin. Skin cancer is dangerous and it frequently affects fair-skinned people. Its most hazardous type is melanoma, which arises from constant exposure to harmful ultraviolet (UV) rays. But melanoma is far less common than the less harmful basal cell carcinoma. Squamous cell carcinoma, another type of skin cancer, is moderately common in comparison. Sun damage almost always triggers skin cancer but it may be caused by other skin conditions, such as actinic keratosis.

Cancers aside, fungi make for a very formidable skin enemy. One of the most common fungal skin infections is tinea or ringworm. More benign though is tinea versicolor, an infection that creates areas of reduced pigmentation in the skin.

Like fungi, viruses can potently undermine the skin. Certain viruses cause the skin, for example, to excessively grow, creating warts. Fortunately, a wart can be easily removed at home, using so much as a duct tape. Otherwise, the dermatologist can freeze it or apply chemicals on it. Some wart-like growths are actually seborrheic keratosis, which is a benign skin condition, though it can be itchy.

Shingles is a skin condition caused by herpes zoster or the chickenpox virus. Cold sores, recurring blisters around the lips and the sex organs, are caused by any of two herpes viruses (HSV Type 1 and HSV Type 2).

Allergies can also cause a variety of skin conditions. Among others, they cause hives: red, swollen patches on the skin, which are very itchy.

Insects cause a lot of skin conditions, too; scabies is one. In this condition, microscopic mites tunnel into the skin, particularly in the webs of fingers, and set up residence. As a result, an extremely itchy rash develops on the skin.

In all these conditions, the skin may develop abscesses or boils. A skin abscess, also known as furuncle, occurs when an underlying skin condition compels pus to accumulate under the skin.

A common hair condition, dandruff is actually a skin condition, affecting the scalp. It may be due to an eczema, psoriasis, or seborrheic dermatitis.

Treating skin conditions

An indispensable element of a healthy lifestyle is knowing how to take care of the skin. Every person should develop a healthy lifestyle skin regimen, which invariably includes a habit of cleansing, moisturizing and toning every day. As for skin conditions, the kind of treatment required depends largely on their causes.

If the skin condition arises from autoimmune conditions, then corticosteroids are the way to go. Often available in topical form, corticosteroids are designed to improve dermatitis. To an extent, immune modulators can treat an overly active immune system, in turn improving psoriasis and dermatitis in general.

Antibiotics are indicated for bacterial skin infections, especially those that cause cellulitis. Topical antifungal creams, meanwhile, can cure many forms of fungal skin infections, although oral medications may be necessary.

Patients may choose to be vaccinated against shingles. However, oral drugs are used to improve symptoms of most herpes viruses.

Itching, a symptom that almost always accompanies conditions of the skin, can be alleviated by taking oral or topical antihistamines. Just as well, emollients or moisturizers can prevent itching, as dry skin tends to be itchy and irritated.

Skin cancers necessitate surgical removal. Skin abscesses also need to be surgically drained.

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Tests for skin conditions

Doctors may order a skin biopsy, a procedure easy enough because the skin is an external organ. In this test, a medical examiner takes a tissue sample and scrutinizes it under the microscope.

To test if a condition is allergic in nature, a medical examiner simply applies certain substances, e.g. pollen, on the skin. Similarly, an examiner may inject the patient with protein derivatives of the TB (tuberculosis) bacteria to diagnose TB. This test is called a tuberculosis skin test.

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1 Response

  1. Yen says:

    Great article!!! Nice updates regarding the human skin. Seriously, I don’t treat mine as a disease although I experienced dryness of skin under my knee. It really hurts, especially within the freezing temperature and I’ve been looking for treatments until now… Anyway, thanks for that great info!!!

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