The skin is the largest organ of the body making up almost 15% of the body weight. It has several important functions including the regulation of body temperature, sensory reception, water balance; synthesis of vitamins and hormones and possibly the most important of all functions is as the role of the protection agent for the body. The skin protects the body from external elements such as bacteria, viruses, chemicals, and temperature. The skin contains secretions that can kill bacteria and the pigment melanin provides a natural defense against ultraviolet rays that can damage skin cells. The skin regulates the body's temperature when it is exposed to a cold temperature by constricting the blood vessels in the dermis allowing the blood which is warm, to bypass the skin. The skin then becomes the temperature of the cold it is exposed to. Body heat is conserved since the blood vessels are not diverting heat to the skin anymore.
The skin is the main component of the integumentary system. Other elements of the system are the hair, nails, sweat and oil glands. Dermatology is the branch of medicine dealing with the integumentary system. Since the skin is the most visible organ, skin appearance or symptoms provides important clues about any skin diseases but also to disorders of other organs. Since the skin is so readily exposed to the environment, it is the most vulnerable organ system because of exposure to radiation, trauma, infection, bruising, and harmful chemicals.
Skin Conditions and Disorders
Eczema is a general term for the several types of inflammation of the skin.
Contact eczema is a localized reaction that includes redness, itching, and burning where the skin has come into contact with an allergen (an allergy-causing substance) or with an irritant such as an acid, a cleaning agent, or other chemical.
Also common but longer lasting and more generalized is atopic dermatitis, the skin becomes unceasingly or chronically itchy. Scratching leads to redness, swelling, cracking, oozes clear fluid, and finally, crusting and scaling. In most cases, there are periods of time when the disease flares up, followed by periods when the skin improves or clears up entirely. Environmental factors can bring on symptoms of atopic dermatitis at any time in individuals who have inherited the atopic disease trait.
Atopic dermatitis is also associated with malfunction of the body's immune system. The immune system can become misguided and create inflammation in the skin even in the absence of a major infection. This can be viewed as a form of autoimmunity, where a body reacts against its own tissues.
As some children with atopic dermatitis grow older, their skin disease improves or disappears altogether, although their skin often remains dry and easily irritated. In others, atopic dermatitis continues to be a significant problem in adulthood.
Things you can do to alleviate eczema symptoms
- Limit your contact with things that can irritate or dry out your skin.
Some common products that may dry out and irritate your skin include household cleansers, detergents, aftershave lotions, soap, rubbing alcohol and other solvents. Because soaps can cause skin irritation, wash your hands only when necessary, especially if you have eczema on your hands. Be sure to dry your hands completely after you wash them.
- Maintain a cool, stable temperature and consistent humidity levels.
The low humidity of winter or the dry year-round climate of some geographic areas can make the disease worse, as can overheated indoor areas and long or hot baths and showers.
- Limit exposure to environmental irritants and possible allergens.
Allergens and irritants are substances that inflame the skin because the immune system overreacts to the substance. Inflammation occurs even when the person is exposed to small amounts of the substance for a limited time. Specific irritants affect people with atopic dermatitis to different degrees.
- Recognize and limit emotional stress.
Emotional issues can play a role in atopic dermatitis. Although the disease itself is not caused by emotional factors or personality, it can be made worse by stress, anger, and frustration. Interpersonal problems or major life changes, such as divorce, job changes, or the death of a loved one, can also make the disease worse. Often, emotional stress seems to trigger a flare of the disease.
- There are three main goals in treating Eczema
- healing the skin and keeping it healthy
- preventing flares, and treating symptoms when they do occur.
If a flare of atopic dermatitis does occur, several methods can be used to treat the symptoms. The doctor will select an eczema treatment according to the age of the patient and the severity of the symptoms.
With proper eczema treatment, most symptoms can be brought under control within 3 weeks. If symptoms fail to respond, this may be due to a flare that is stronger than the medication can handle, a treatment program that is not fully effective for a particular individual, or the presence of trigger factors that were not addressed in the initial treatment program. These factors can include a reaction to a medication, infection, or emotional stress.
Corticosteroid creams and ointments are the most frequently used for eczema treatment. Sometimes over-the-counter preparations are used, but in many cases the doctor will prescribe a stronger corticosteroid cream or ointment. Your physician will take into account the patient's age, location of the skin to be treated, severity of the symptoms, and type of preparation (cream or ointment) when prescribing a medication.
Acne is a disorder resulting from hormonal activity and the presence of other substances on the skin's oil glands and hair follicles. These factors lead to blocked pores resulting in the outbreak of lesions commonly known as pimples or zits. Acne lesions usually occur on the face, neck, back, chest, and shoulders. Although acne is usually not a serious health threat, it can be a source of significant emotional distress. Severe acne can lead to permanent scarring.
There are steps you can take to reduce acne symptoms.
- Face washing is essential since it removes excess surface oil and dead skin cells that are usually the culprits clogging your pores
- Washing after working around greasy food or if you've been sweating from heat or exercise.
- Clean skin gently. Use a mild cleanser to prevent irritating the skin. Scrubbing the skin does not stop acne. It can even make the problem worse.
- Use noncomedogenic skin products that are known to not clog pores.
Depending on the extent of the problem, the doctor may recommend one of several over-the-counter (OTC) medicines and/or prescription medicines. Some of these medicines may be topical (applied to the skin), and others may be oral (taken by mouth). The doctor may suggest using more than one topical medicine or combining oral and topical medicines.
Rosacea is a skin disorder that causes chronic redness of the face. It can also cause swelling, tiny pimples, and the appearance of broken blood vessels. Rosacea usually affects the cheeks, forehead, chin, and nose, but the ears, chest, and back may also be affected. More than half of people with rosacea also have mild eye symptoms, including redness, burning, and watering.
The cause of rosacea is mostly unknown, though one still-unproven theory attributes it to infection with bacteria known as "helicobacter." Factors that can cause flushing or blushing may trigger flare-ups in people with rosacea. There is also evidence that hereditary may be a rosacea cause.
Rosacea generally can't be cured, but it can be controlled. There are several ways to manage rosacea. Your physician may recommend more than one, depending on your condition.
- Avoid things that may trigger flushing or blushing, such as certain foods, alcohol, and exposure to the sun.
- Protect your skin from the sun with clothing, hats, or sunscreen with a sun protection factor (SPF) of 15 or higher.
- Exercise in a cool environment to avoid overheating.
- Avoid anything that irritates your skin:
- Apply topical medications, moisturizers, and cosmetics very gently.
- Use cleansers, moisturizers, cosmetics, and other toiletries that are gentle and alcohol-free.
Medical Treatment for Rosacea include:
- Topical antibiotics applied directly to the affected skin such as azaleic acid or oral tretinoin, Clonidine in low doses and certain types of beta blockers
- Antibiotics taken by mouth such as Oral isotretinoin, Oral methotrexate, dapsone, primaquine, chloroquine, or oral prednisone