The skin is the body’s largest organ. It covers the entire external surface of the human body and serves as a protective barrier against injuries and pathogens. It also regulates body temperature, controls insensible fluid loss, and stores vitamin D, fat, and water.
The skin has three layers, namely:
Epidermis – This is the protective, nonvascular layer of the skin made up of 90% of squamous cells or keratinocyte, which produces keratin. Keratinocyte’s main function is to form a barrier against environmental damage by heat, water loss, viruses, fungi, bacteria, and parasites. The thickness of the epidermis varies over the body; it is thickest on the soles of the feet and palms of the hands and thinnest on the eyelids at just about 0.05 mm.
Dermis – Wedged between the epidermis and hypodermis, the dermis is made up of two layers namely, the papillary region and reticular dermis, which help cushion the body from strain and stress. The dermis also contains apocrine glands, connective tissues, blood vessels, hair follicles, sweat glands, and lymphatic vessels as well as thermoreceptors, which provide the sense of heat and mechanoreceptors, which provide the sense of touch.
Hypodermis or subcutaneous tissue – This is the thickest layer of the skin attached to the dermis by elastin fibers and collagen. It is mostly made up of adipocytes or cells that accumulate and store fats. It also contains blood vessels and nerves that are larger compared to those in the dermis.
Common Skin Problems/Conditions
Rash – This is a collective term use for any sort of skin discoloration or inflammation that distorts the skin’s normal appearance. Examples are chickenpox, rubella, hives, intertrigo (skin rash in body folds), rosacea, hives, and eczema. Rashes can be due to certain medications, extreme temperature, insect bites, medical conditions, or infection.
Acne – Affecting at least 85% of people at some point in their lives, acne is considered the most common skin condition. It occurs when the skin is blocked by bacteria, dead skin, or oil.
Skin cancer – This is the most common type of cancer that develops due to excessive exposure to ultraviolent rays from the sun or tanning beds.
Psoriasis – This skin disease causes inflammation and scaling. It develops when the antibodies mistakenly attack skin cells and as a result, they reproduce at a rapid rate and build up on the skin.
Ringworm – This skin condition is common in children and is caused by a fungal infection. It is contagious and typically affects the scalp and the feet.
Dandruff – This is a common condition of the scalp that can be caused by dry skin, seborrheic dermatitis, neurological illnesses, or fungal infection.
Common Skin Treatments and Procedures
With an exemption of certain types of skin cancer, most skin conditions are non-life threatening and can be resolved using conservative, non-invasive treatments. Common skin treatments and procedures include the following:
Corticosteroids – Topical steroids are the primary option for the management of a range of inflammatory skin conditions as they are highly effective in relieving symptoms. Steroids are often prescribed for eczema, contact dermatitis, insect stings, and psoriasis.
Antibiotics – Topical and oral antibiotics can be prescribed for skin conditions that are caused by a bacterial infection such as cellulitis.
Antiviral and antifungal medications – These are prescribed for skin conditions caused by virus or fungus such as ringworm and athlete’s foot.
Skin surgery – This is an invasive procedure used for the treatment of skin cancer. A special type of technique is called Moh’s procedure, which is recognised as the single most effective technique in removing squamous cell carcinoma and basal cell carcinoma.