A – Z Skin Conditions

Skin is extraordinary. Spanning an area of up to two metres squared our skin is the largest organ in the body.

Not only does it serve to protect its inhabitants and our vital and precious organs, it is also a living organism of our body responsive to its surrounding environment.

It can miraculously heal itself, change colour to protect itself and even allow the body to cool down or conserve heat when needed. The skin has the ability to display emotion; blushing when mildly embarrassed or burning red with rage when angry and feelings of anxiety can be felt in the palms of our hands when we experience a cold sweat.

The skin is the most visible and expansive component of our human body and so the health of our skin is paramount to most of us and directly affects our state of mind and emotional wellbeing.

The environment presents many offending substances, which to some are harmless but to sufferers are debilitating and disease inducing. In addition, an internal trigger may also lead to a skin condition. For example, a reaction to a medication or an indication that there is something deeper happening within the body. The cause of disease could even be a combination of both internal and external causes but often the ‘trigger’ is debatable or simply not known.

The skin is made up of three distinct layers; the epidermis the upper most layer, the dermis and the subcutaneous layer. Within these layers, which form the skin structure, run a network of capillaries, nerve fibres, interspersed with sweat ducts, hair follicles and sebaceous glands. It contains a myriad of cell types each specific to its function and finely programmed. The intricate and varied cellular structure makes it remarkable but it can also contribute to its downfall as any number of these cells or networks can go into trauma.

Diseased skin can swell, blister, split and weep plasma. It can become dry, scaly and intensely itchy or develop oily plaques or abnormal growths.

Yet for the majority of skin diseases there are no definitive cures. For some no treatment is the best treatment e.g. mild vitiligo and for others a range of creams, lotions, emulsions need to be sampled until the ‘nearest fit’ is found – if that is even possible. Often much stronger medicines are needed containing active ingredients, which can be taken orally to provide relief. Immune suppressing tablets, steroids and desensitising light therapy are treatments also used in addition to the above.

For many skin disease sufferers it can affect their quality of life: anything from their personal life to their education and career. Due to its debilitating nature many can become housebound. The treatment is extremely intense, as they have to repeatedly cover their skin in emollients. This ensures that the skin remains hydrated preventing the skin from drying and becoming itchy which would lead the individual to scratch resulting in the skin splitting and possible infection. In addition, the medication can be so strong it causes numerous side effects including sickness, dizziness and generally feeling unwell.

With some skin diseases being aggressive, many sufferers are unable to use cosmetic means such as make-up, tattoos, hair extensions, plastic surgery or botox, which for others are a natural alternative to enhancing their appearance.

The fact remains that for most skin disease sufferers it is an emotional as much as a physical state.

Skin Deep Behind the Mask felt it necessary to include a brief overview of the most common skin diseases for your information, which we will continue to improve on and add further information too, as well as list further skin diseases.

Please be advised that these are general notes and a doctor must be consulted if you have any questions about skin disease, management or treatment of the disease.

Please be strongly advised to seek professional advice and medical attention from your doctor if you suspect anything. Do not make decisions based on the information provided here.

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The prevalence of skin disease exceeds that of obesity, hypertension, or cancer. Despite skin being the largest organ of the human body, dermatological research remains one of the most under funded areas of medicine. In a world where society has an increasing preoccupation with image and it’s importance to every aspect of a person’s life, sufferers of skin diseases are feeling and being more marginalised and isolated than ever.

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