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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.