Our Skin: Let’s Talk About Our Biggest Organ

skin
June 26, 2020 0 Comments

Let’s take a trip back to Biology 101 and talk about your skin.

  • Remember when you learned about organs?
  • Were you surprised to learn that the skin is an organ?
  • And even more surprised to learn that it is the largest organ of the body? 

Every organ performs specific tasks. And, as you can imagine, the functions our skin performs is crucial to our health.

Our skin protects us from infections and environmental assaults as well as senses:

  • Cold
  • Heat
  • Pain
  • Pressure
  • Touch

Since it is your first line of defense, your skin is prone to injuries and wounds. Sometimes these wounds are artificial and heal quickly, while others are deeper and need to be taken care of by an expert.

For some of you, what you learned in Biology 101 may be a little hazy. So, let’s review what we know! This will help us better understand the severity of wounds and who should treat them. 

The Skin 

The skin is the largest sensory organ that we have. It interacts with the environment and communicates essential information to the brain about what is around us.

In it lies the nerves that sense:

  • Touch
  • Pain
  • Vibration
  • Position

Although we can only see one layer from the outside, it consists of two layers:

  • Epidermis
  • Dermis

The Epidermis 

This is the layer we can see. There is a lot of activity in the epidermis, including the forming and shedding of cells. Four main types of cells that make up the epidermis. 

Keratinocytes

These are the main skin cells. They are created in the zone where the epidermis and dermis meet. As they mature, they rise to the surface of the skin, eventually die, are shed, and replaced by new cells. 

Melanocytes

These cells contain pigment and provide coloration to the skin. They are also responsible for absorbing radiation and protect against damage caused by ultraviolet radiation. 

Langerhans Cells

These cells are created in the bone marrow. After they mature, they migrate to the surface of the skin to help fight infection. 

Merkel Cells

These are specialized skin cells that assist with sensing light touch. They are ideally located on the tips of your fingers and toes, as well as other specialized areas. 

The Dermis 

The dermis is the deeper layer of skin that lies under the epidermis. It consists of two layers which support the epidermis: 

The Papillary Dermis

This thin layer of tissue is located just below the epidermis. It is made up of capillary blood vessels and a few elastic and collagen fibers. 

The Reticular Dermis

This layer is made up of large bundles of collagen and elastin fibers that run parallel to the surface of the skin. These fibers help the skin resist injury from shearing or other types of trauma.

The elasticity of the fibers allows the skin to return to its resting state after being stretched or compressed. In this layer, you will also find hair follicles, sweat glands, and sebaceous glands. 

Underneath the two layers of the skin, there is a layer of subcutaneous fat that provides extra cushioning for the skin. And beneath the layer of fat, you will find muscle and bone. 

Wound Causes and Types 

Now that we have a better understanding of how the skin is structured let’s talk about wounds. You have likely experienced a wound to the skin more than once in your lifetime. But have you taken the time to learn about the different types of wounds and how they affect your body?   

Generally speaking, wounds occur when the skin is broken or damaged because of injury.  The specific damage done to the skin depends upon how the injury occurred.

Causes of injury fall under the following basic categories:

  • Mechanical
  • Chemical
  • Electrical
  • Thermal
  • Nuclear sources

Glossary of Wound Terms 

Inflammation: The skin’s initial response to injury. 

Superficial (surface) Wounds and Abrasions: These types of wounds, usually caused by friction rubbing against an abrasive surface, do not affect the deeper layers of skin. 

Deep Abrasions: These are cuts or lacerations that cut through both layers of the skin down into underlying tissue like muscle or bone. 

Puncture Wounds: These are wounds caused by a sharp-pointed object like a nail, knife, or needle, entering the skin. 

Human and Animal Bites: These wounds can be classified as puncture wounds, abrasions, or a combination of both. 

Pressure Sores: You will likely have heard of this type of wound referred to as bed sores. They develop when an area of the skin is under chronic pressure which restricts blood supply to that area.  

Minor Wound Care Basics   

You can prevent infection and promote proper healing of the skin by adequately caring for wounds. 

Caring for Minor Wounds 

  1. Clean the wound with cool running water and soap. Rinse the wound for at least five minutes to get all of the dirt, debris, and bacteria out. 
  2. Apply a thin layer of antibiotic ointment to help prevent infection. 
  3. Bandage the wound if necessary.   

When Home Care Isn’t Enough 

  • Deeper wounds need medical attention to prevent infection and loss of function. More profound injuries affect underlying structures like:
    • Bone
    • Muscle
    • Tendon
    • Arteries
    • Nerves
  • If a wound will not stop bleeding or is taking a long time to heal, it is best to visit a professional.  
  • Animal and human bites carry a high rate of infection. Therefore, you should always be seen by a medical professional. 
  • If you have a deep and dirty puncture wound but have not had a tetanus shot within the last five years, your doctor may recommend that you get a booster.  The booster should be administered within 48 hours of the injury. 

We Can Help

It’s essential to take proper care of the skin and attend to any issues that arise as soon as possible to keep the skin and the rest of the body healthy.

If you are concerned about a wound, do not hesitate to make an appointment with one of our providers. At One Life Medical Center, we know you only live once are want you to live well! 

Resources

Summary
Article Name
Our Skin: Let's Talk About Our Biggest Organ
Description
It's essential to take proper care of the skin and attend to any issues that arise as soon as possible to keep the skin and the rest of the body healthy.

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