Skin is the largest organ in the human body with a surface area of between 1.6 and 1.8 m². Its thickness varies according to its location on the body. For example, the skin on the eyelid is the thinnest, measuring a mere 0.5mm. On the other hand, very thick skin is found on the soles of the feet, with a thickness of about 4mm. The skin is made up of three parts. The outer layer is called the epidermis. Underneath is the dermis where one can find hair follicles, sweat glands, vessels to nourish the epidermis, as well as nerves. The deepest layer contains the subcutaneous tissue and fat. Its main function is to protect against the harmful effects of the outside environment. In medical literature it is also known as the skin barrier. As soon as the barrier is damaged, pollutants from the outside environment can make their way into the body, resulting in various illnesses, including skin disease.
Causes of Skin Disease
What are the most common causes of skin disease? Just like in other organs, disease processes occur in the skin. Skin disease usually manifests itself as inflammation or as a malignant or benign tumor. The main factors that cause these changes in the skin are the mediators of the external environment. These can be physical – rays of the sun, heat, cold etc., as well as chemical or biological. Biological causes can include parasites, fungi, viruses and bacteria. Other factors that can cause skin disease are immune mechanisms, genetics or other, unknown causes.
Physical and Biological Causes of Skin Disease
There are many known types of skin disease. Those with mechanical causes can include calluses, corns, sores and bed sores or decubitus ulcers. Burns occur with excessive heat, whereas damage or frost bite can occur in low temperatures. When exposed to ultraviolet sun rays or in a solarium where these rays are even more aggressive, some people may develop inflammation of the skin, medically called solar dermatitis. The skin can also be affected by parasites such as lice or scurvy. Skin infections are commonly caused by fungi and yeast and viral diseases usually cause warts and herpes. The latter is often found at public pools and similar humid places. Bacteria are also involved in skin disease. Examples of these bacterial diseases include inflammation of the hair follicle, nail bed, sweat and sebaceous glands. Consequences of inflamed sebaceous glands, where the bacteria propagate, is acne. Skin disease can also affect hair, including body hair, and can result in hair loss or baldness as well as excess hair growth. Changes due to skin disease may also affect nails, primarily changes in shape and quality.
Skin Disease Caused by Allergies and Immune Mechanisms
With the constant rise in allergies, even with unknown causes, eczema and hives can occur. This is difficult to treat as it is often not known how to eliminate the causes. Skin disease caused by autoimmune reactions, where the body is fighting against itself, create a type of skin disease called lupus, medically called lupus erythematous. This disease does not only affect the skin, but other organs as well. In this case, the skin develops red spots on the face, typically in the shape of butterfly wings. One may also become sensitive to sunlight and in the case of damaged hair follicles, may develop hair loss. Impaired proliferation of skin cells can cause skin diseases such as psoriasis, impetigo or lichen sclerosis. Scleroderma is a disease of the connective tissue, characterized by thickening of the skin and subcutaneous tissue.
Malfunction of pigmentation and skin disease
Malfunction of pigmentation can also cause a number of skin diseases such as albinism, a rare disease caused by a lack of melanin and manifested by very fair skin that is easily sunburnt. Another malfunction of pigmentation is vitiligo, where white spots appear on otherwise normal skin. On the other hand, one can be faced with various dark blotches, freckles and birth marks. Some birth marks need to be monitored and checked out by a dermatologist on a regular basis because the effects of outside factors can cause innocent freckles to develop into skin tumors.
Symptoms of Skin Disease
Skin diseases are characterized by multiple symptoms that thanks to easy access and visibility can often be notice immediately. These can include various blotches, buds, bumps, blisters or scales, scabs, tears, abrasions and ulcers. The most common symptom of skin disease is itchiness, which can be quite bothersome. Burning, pain, tightness, redness or swelling may follow. All these manifestations of skin disease develop from the root cause of the disease.
Skin Disease and its Complications
Complications of skin disease develop from a certain type of illness and its localization. For example, with seemingly ordinary acne, another type of skin disease can develop secondarily, a type of infection that will worsen the course of the acne and prolong its healing, eventually even leaving scars. More severe complications can occur, such as lupus, which can cause damage to major organs, such as swelling inside the heart. There is whole list of complications from skin disease, from minor and easily treatable, to life threatening conditions. This is why prompt treatment for any disease, not just skin disease, is very important.
Treatment of Skin Disease
The treatment of skin disease depends on the type and causes of the illness. Other treatments are used for sunburns and others for bacterial invasion or its propagation. For minor sunburns, a cold and soothing skin gel is applied. With more severe sunburn cases, a more complex treatment is needed, such as IV treatment, medical care and sometimes even hospitalization. In bacterial skin diseases such as acne, medication against the specific bacteria is necessary. These medications include antibiotics, which in light forms are enough for local application, i.e. creams.
Prevention of Skin Disease
As with most other illnesses, it is important to try and prevent skin disease. We ourselves can play a large part in prevention. This is done by protecting our skin from the sun's rays with the application of sunscreen, as well as shields and appropriate clothing. Furthermore, with any kind of handling of chemicals, the skin should be protected with gloves or clothing. In biological instances, which enter the body through any sort of cut or injury, it is necessary to treat the injury with disinfectant promptly and then cover with a band aid or bandage so that parasites, bacteria and others do not have a chance of entering the body. As further precaution against skin disease, we can support our immune system, which when it is weakened, the body becomes vulnerable and more susceptible to disease, skin and other. Unfortunately it is not possible to influence genetic predisposition or autoimmune processes, but thanks to these preventative measures, one can still do a lot for the body and avoid some types of skin disease.