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Skin Diseases and Disorders

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4 minutes
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So let’s take a closer look at skin diseases and disorders. Skin diseases, disorders, and conditions include persons with boils, infected wounds, open sores, abrasions, or weeping dermatological lesions. Any person with these conditions should avoid working where there is any likelihood at all that they could contaminate healthcare supplies, body art equipment, or working surfaces. Worker’s skin should be free from rash or infection. And healthcare workers, tattoo artists, and caregivers should cover any sores with bandages to avoid the potential spread of disease. Skin is the largest organ of the body. It contains blood vessels, sensory receptors, nerves, and sweat glands. It’s made up of several layers. And it varies in thickness from about one and a half to four millimeters or more. Skin, remember, is the first line of defense against infection as long as it’s intact. Let’s look at the layers. The Epidermis which is the thick outer layer of tissue. The Dermis being the strong, flexible second layer of connective tissue, filled with blood vessels and nerves. And then thirdly, the Hypodermis which is just below the skin, and that’s the more fatty layer, also called the subcutaneous layer. Commonly spread skin diseases include bacteria. Staphylococcus aureus is a bacteria commonly found on the skin and in the nose of some individuals. Most of the time, staph does not cause any major harm. These infections can look like pimples, boils, or other skin conditions and most are able to be treated easily. MRSA (methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus) infection can look like an ordinary skin wound, boil, or infected sore. However the sore doesn’t seem to heal or it may even get worse. People contract MRSA by touching infected mucous membranes, skin, or contaminated objects. Now in the community, most MRSA infections are limited to skin infections. More severe or potentially life-threatening MRSA infections occur most frequently among patients in healthcare settings with altered immune systems. A commonly spread skin disease that is a virus is Herpes Simplex. This is generally found on the face, scalp, arms, neck and upper chest. It’s usually indicated by small round blisters when broken and they can secrete a clear or yellowish fluid. People contract herpes by touching infected saliva, mucous membranes, or skin. Some common skin diseases that are usually more of the fungus related are Athlete’s Foot and Ringworm. This infection causes red, patchy, flaky, itchy areas and it’s contagious and it’s easily spread from one person to another. It usually spreads when infected areas on another person or contaminated surface, like showers, floors and benches are touched. Affected areas need to be kept clean and dry. Some people with the following conditions are more prone to skin disorders. And that’s people that have a history of Hepatitis B or C, HIV or AIDS, diabetes, a history of hemophilia or any other blood disorder/diseases, a history of skin diseases or skin lesions, a history of allergies or adverse reactions to pigments and dyes or latex, or have other immune disorders.

This lesson will cover a variety of skin diseases and disorders, including some information on the human body's largest organ, how skin disorders are spread, signs and symptoms, and a word about the body's natural defenses.

Skin diseases and disorders include boils, open sores, infected wounds, abrasions, weeping dermatological lesions, and more. It's important that anyone with these sorts of conditions abstain from working if there's any chance that they can contaminate healthcare supplies, work surfaces, body art equipment, etc.

Ideally, your skin should be free of rashes and infection, particularly for healthcare providers, caregivers, tattoo artists, and the like. Alternatively, you can also cover all open sores and wounds with bandages to avoid any potential spread of disease, if the condition isn't too severe or contagious.

The Largest Organ in the Body

Yes, as you probably guessed (or maybe already knew), it's your skin! Your skin contains blood vessels, sensory receptors, nerves, and sweat glands. The thickness varies person to person, from around 1.5 millimeters to 4 millimeters.

Pro Tip #1: Most people probably don't spend much time thinking about their skin beyond a few wrinkles. But this would be disrespectful, as your skin is the first line of defense against infection, but only if it's intact.

The Three Layers of Skin

  1. Epidermis – The epidermis is the thick outer layer that we most likely associate as being our skin. But there's much more to it than that.
  2. Dermis – The dermis is the flexible second layer of our skin. It's composed mostly of connective tissue and filled with blood vessels and nerves.
  3. Hypodermis – The hypodermis is the innermost layer, also known as the subcutaneous layer, and is composed of fatty material.

Commonly Spread Skin Diseases

Skin diseases and disorders can be the result of bacteria, viruses, or fungus.

Bacteria

Staphylococcus aureus is a type of germ that about 30 percent of people have on their skin and carry in their noses. Most of the time, staph does not cause any harm. However, sometimes staph causes infections. In healthcare settings, these staph infections can be serious or fatal.

Staph infections look like pimples or boils or something similar. And most of the time, staph infections are easily treatable.

Methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus (MRSA) is a bacterium that causes infections in different parts of the body. It's more difficult to treat than most strains of staph as it's resistant to some commonly used antibiotics.

MRSA infections can look like typical skin wounds and infected sores. However, since they can be resistant to antibiotic treatment, they sometimes tend not to heal and even get worse.

People contract MRSA infections through contact with infected mucous membranes, skin, or contaminated objects. Most of the time, MRSA infections are limited to the skin. But more severe, life-threatening infections can occur elsewhere in the body – frequently among patients with compromised immune systems in a healthcare setting.

Viruses

The herpes simplex virus is a commonly spread skin infection that causes herpes. Herpes can appear in various parts of the body, most commonly on the face, scalp, arms, neck, and upper chest.

Herpes is usually indicated by small round blisters. When broken, these blisters can secrete a clear or yellowish fluid. Contraction of herpes occurs from contact with infected saliva, mucous membranes, and skin.

Fungus

Commonly spread fungus-related skin disorders include athlete's foot and ringworm. The only real difference between the two is location, as ringworm can develop on the skin, hair, nails, and scalp. Whereas athlete's foot only occurs in the feet, mostly between the toes.

The two both present similar signs – red, patchy, flaky, itchy skin. They're both also highly contagious and easily spread from one person to another, or through infected surfaces in warm, moist environments, like shower floors for example.

Keeping areas susceptible to athlete's foot clean and dry will go a long way to preventing the spread of the fungus.

Pro Tip #2: Some people are more prone to developing skin disorders, including anyone with a history of the following diseases and conditions:

  • Hepatitis B and C
  • HIV and AIDS
  • Diabetes
  • Hemophilia or other blood disorders
  • Other skin diseases or lesions
  • Allergies or adverse reactions to pigments, dyes, latex, etc.
  • Other immune disorders

A Word About the Body's Natural Defenses

The human body has several natural defenses that prevent infectious microorganisms from entering it. The body is very much dependent on intact skin and mucous membranes in the mouth, nose, and eyes to keep infectious microorganisms out.

When the skin isn't intact, infectious microorganisms can enter through openings, like abrasions, cuts, and sores. Mucous membranes in the mouth, nose, and eyes also work to protect the body from these same invaders, often by expelling them through a cough or sneeze.

Should all the body's barriers fail and a germ enters, the immune system will begin working to fight the pathogen.

Pro Tip #3: Mucous membranes are less effective than skin at keeping bloodborne pathogens out of the body. All the more reason to treat your skin with the ultimate care.

The immune system's basic tools for handling these invaders are antibodies and white blood cells. Special white blood cells have the ability to travel around the body and identify invading pathogens. Once detected, white blood cells gather around the pathogen and release antibodies to fight the infection.

While antibodies can usually rid the body of pathogens, this isn't always the case. Some pathogens, once inside the body, can thrive, multiply, and overwhelm the immune system.

This combination of preventing pathogens from entering the body and destroying them once they enter is necessary for good health and contributes to a little something called homeostasis, or balance/stability in all physiological processes.