Understanding the basics of dermatology

Our skin is the largest organ in our body and makes up 15 per cent of our body’s weight. The top layer or epidermis – which itself comprises several different layers – acts as a barrier preventing irritants and allergens penetrating the body and contributes to the immune function.

At the same time, our skin prevents excessive loss of water and maintains a stable equilibrium inside the body.

The inner layer or dermis is thicker than the epidermis (outer layer) whose primary role is to sustain the epidermis as well as cushioning deeper parts of the body from injury and playing a vital role in wound healing.

Skin conditions and an impaired skin barrier

People with skin problems including eczema, dermatitis, and other inflammatory conditions as well as wounds, including those from surgical procedures, unfortunately have an impaired skin barrier. 

And an impaired skin barrier disturbs the ability of the skin to prevent water loss and maintain internal equilibrium – that’s the skin balance. 

  • Water loss can lead to dry skin. In addition, fluid loss aggravates eczema and psoriasis, but is not a direct cause.
  • Dry skin is thin and fragile and allows irritants, allergens, and infectious agents such as bacteria and fungi to penetrate the skin causing inflammation and infection. 
  • Skin wounds may also appear as a result of inflammation and infection as well as from surgical procedures.

Skin TLC

Skin conditions arising out of a weakened skin barrier like dry skin, eczema and psoriasis or skin wounds, need rapid and effective treatment to help restore the skin barrier to its proper function and reduce pain, inflammation, itching, irritation, infection and skin rashes that can significantly impair a person’s quality of life.

Treatment of skin conditions requires a great deal of care – both in the choice of preparation and its careful use. 

For those of us who suffer from skin troubles, understanding the skin condition and the general condition management is really important for our health and wellness. Successful management of skin conditions requires a partnership between the sufferer and the healthcare professional to ensure that skin troubles are managed.

Other skin conditions – at a glance summary; For further information speak to your doctor or pharmacist

  • Lichen simplex: a chronic inflammatory condition caused by a sufferer scratching or damaging an itchy area of skin
  • Psoriasis: an immune-mediated disease that causes raised, red, scaly patches to appear on the skin. Psoriasis typically affects the outside of the elbows, knees, or scalp, though it can appear on any location on the body
  • Lichen planus: a rash that can affect different parts of the body, including inside the mouth. Symptoms include raised purple-red blotches on the skin, white patches in the mouth and bald patches on the scalp
  • Discoid lupus: an auto-immune condition that causes a severe rash that tends to get worse when exposed to sunlight
  • Fingertip/heel fissures: painful condition often related to eczema or contact dermatitis in the workplace

 

Remember to break the cycle: Itchy skin can often lead to scratching. Scratching increases inflammation and stimulates nerve fibres, leading to more itching and more scratching. Scratching can cause the skin barrier to break down. This cycle can be broken by use of a topical anti-inflammatory medication to reduce the inflammation in the skin, ease the itching and prevent scratching.