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A Skin disorder (or cutaneous conditions) is any medical condition that affects the integumentary system — the organ system that comprises the entire surface of the body and includes skin, hair, nails, and related muscle and glands.[1] The major function of this system is as a barrier against the external environment.[2]

Conditions of the human integumentary system constitute a broad spectrum of diseases, also known as dermatoses, as well as many nonpathologic states (like, in certain circumstances, melanonychia and racquet nails).[3][4] While only a small number of skin diseases account for most visits to the physician, thousands of skin conditions have been described.[5] Classification of these conditions often presents many nosological challenges, since underlying etiologies and pathogenetics are often not known.[6][7] Therefore, most current textbooks present a classification based on location (for example, conditions of the mucous membrane), morphology (chronic blistering conditions), etiology (skin conditions resulting from physical factors), and so on.[8][9]

Clinically, the diagnosis of any particular skin condition is made by gathering pertinent information regarding the presenting skin lesion(s), including the location (such as arms, head, legs), symptoms (pruritus, pain), duration (acute or chronic), arrangement (solitary, generalized, annular, linear), morphology (macules, papules, vesicles), and color (red, blue, brown, black, white, yellow).[10] The diagnosis of many conditions often also requires a skin biopsy which yields histologic information[11][12] that can be correlated with the clinical presentation and any laboratory data.[13][14]

are an interesting area in psychosomatic medicine. The skin is the largest organ in the body, infused with receptors as well as efferent nerves and is thought to be particularly sensitive to psychological conditions, at least in some individuals.

Skin disorders, by their nature are often visible and can have a sicgnificant impact on the patient's self esteem, feeling of physical attractiveness etc.

The main ailments thought to be of psychological significance include:

Where cutaneous conditions occur

Main article: Integumentary system

The skin weighs an average of four kilograms, covers an area of two square meters, and is made of three distinct layers: the epidermis, dermis, and subcutaneous tissue.[1] There are two main types of human skin: glabrous skin, the nonhairy skin on the palms and soles (also referred to as the "palmoplantar" surfaces), and hair-bearing skin.[15] Within the latter type, there are hairs in structures called pilosebaceous units, each with hair follicle, sebaceous gland, and associated arrector pili muscle.[16] In the embryo, the epidermis, hair, and glands form from the ectoderm, which is chemically influenced by the underlying mesoderm that forms the dermis and subcutaneous tissues.[17][18][19]


Main article: Epidermis (skin)

The epidermis is the most superficial layer of skin, a squamous epithelium with several strata: the stratum corneum, stratum lucidum, stratum granulosum, stratum spinosum, and stratum basale.[20] Nourishment is provided to these layers via diffusion from the dermis, since the epidermis is without direct blood supply. The epidermis contains four cell types: keratinocytes, melanocytes, Langerhans cells, and Merkel cells. Of these, keratinocytes are the major component, constituting roughly 95 percent of the epidermis.[15] This stratified squamous epithelium is maintained by cell division within the stratum basale, in which differentiating cells slowly displace outwards through the stratum spinosum to the stratum corneum, where cells are continually shed from the surface.[15] In normal skin, the rate of production equals the rate of loss; it takes about two weeks for a cell to migrate from the basal cell layer to the top of the granular cell layer, and an additional two weeks to cross the stratum corneum.[21]


Main article: Dermis

The dermis is the layer of skin between the epidermis and subcutaneous tissue, and comprises two sections, the papillary dermis and the reticular dermis.[22] The superficial papillary dermis interdigitates with the overlying rete ridges of the epidermis, between which the two layers interact through the basement membrane zone.[22] Structural components of the dermis are collagen, elastic fibers, and extrafibrillar matrix (previously called ground substance).[22] Within these components are the pilosebaceous units, arrector pili muscles, and the eccrine and apocrine glands.[20] The dermis contains two vascular networks that run parallel to the skin surface—one superficial and one deep plexus—which are connected by vertical communicating vessels.[20][23] The function of blood vessels within the dermis is fourfold: to supply nutrition, to regulate temperature, to modulate inflammation, and to participate in wound healing.[24][25]

Subcutaneous tissue

Main article: Subcutaneous tissue

The subcutaneous tissue is a layer of fat between the dermis and underlying fascia.[5] This tissue may be further divided into two components, the actual fatty layer, or panniculus adiposus, and a deeper vestigial layer of muscle, the panniculus carnosus.[15] The main cellular component of this tissue is the adipocyte, or fat cell.[5] The structure of this tissue is composed of septal (i.e. linear strands) and lobular compartments, which differ in microscopic appearance.[20] Functionally, the subcutaneous fat insulates the body, absorbs trauma, and serves as a reserve energy source.[5]

Diseases of the skin

For a comprehensive list, see List of cutaneous conditions.

Diseases of the skin include skin infections and skin neoplasms (including skin cancer).


In 1572, Geronimo Mercuriali of Forlì, Italy, completed De morbis cutaneis (translated "On the diseases of the skin"). It is considered the first scientific work dedicated to dermatology.

Approach to diagnoses

The physical examination of the skin and its appendages, as well as the mucous membranes, forms the cornerstone of an accurate diagnosis of cutaneous conditions.[26] Most of these conditions present with cutaneous surface changes termed "lesions," which have more or less distinct characteristics.[27] Often proper examination will lead the physician to obtain appropriate historical information and/or laboratory tests that are able to confirm the diagnosis.[26] Upon examination, the important clinical observations are the (1) morphology, (2) configuration, and (3) distribution of the lesion(s).[26] With regard to morphology, the initial lesion that characterizes a condition is known as the "primary lesion," and identification of such a lesions is the most important aspect of the cutaneous examination.[27] Over time, these primary lesions may continue to develop or be modified by regression or trauma, producing "secondary lesions."[1] However, with that being stated, the lack of standardization of basic dermatologic terminology has been one of the principal barriers to successful communication among physicians in describing cutaneous findings.[20] Nevertheless, there are some commonly accepted terms used to describe the macroscopic morphology, configuration, and distribution of skin lesions, which are listed below.[27]


Primary lesions


Chigger bites on human skin showing characteristic welts



File:Macule and Patch.svg

Macule and patch

File:Papule and Plaque.svg

Papule and plaque

File:Vesicles and Bulla.svg

Vesicles and bulla

File:Ulcers, fissures, and erosions.svg

Fissures, erosions and ulcers

  • Macule – A macule is a change in surface color, without elevation or depression and, therefore, nonpalpable, well or ill-defined,[28] variously sized, but generally considered less than either 5[28] or 10 mm in diameter at the widest point.[27]
  • Patch – A patch is a large macule equal to or greater than either 5 or 10 mm,[27] across depending on one's definition of a macule.[1] Patches may have some subtle surface change, such as a fine scale or wrinkling, but although the consistency of the surface is changed, the lesion itself is not palpable.[26]
  • Papule – A papule is a circumscribed, solid elevation of skin with no visible fluid, varying in size from a pinhead to less than either 5[28] or 10 mm in diameter at the widest point.[27]
  • Plaque – A plaque has been described as a broad papule, or confluence of papules equal to or greater than 1 cm,[27] or alternatively as an elevated, plateau-like lesion that is greater in its diameter than in its depth.[26]
  • Nodule – A nodule is morphologically similar to a papule, but is greater than either 5[26] or 10 mm in both width and depth, and most frequently centered in the dermis or subcutaneous fat.[27] The depth of involvement is what differentiates a nodule from a papule.[28]
  • Vesicle – A vesicle is a circumscribed, fluid-containing, epidermal elevation generally considered less than either 5[28] or 10 mm in diameter at the widest point.[27]
  • Bulla – A bulla is a large vesicle described as a rounded or irregularly shaped blister containing serous or seropurulent fluid, equal to or greater than either 5[28] or 10 mm,[27] depending on one's definition of a vesicle.[1]
  • Pustule – A pustule is a small elevation of the skin containing cloudy[26] or purulent material usually consisting of necrotic inflammatory cells.[27] These can be either white or red.
  • Cyst – A cyst is an epithelial-lined cavity containing liquid, semi-solid, or solid material.[28]
  • Erosion – An erosion is a discontinuity of the skin exhibiting incomplete loss of the epidermis,[29] a lesion that is moist, circumscribed, and usually depressed.[20]
  • Ulcer – An ulcer is a discontinuity of the skin exhibiting complete loss of the epidermis and often portions of the dermis and even subcutaneous fat.[29]
  • Fissure – A fissure is a crack in the skin that is usually narrow but deep.[26]
  • Wheal – A wheal is a rounded or flat-topped, pale red papule or plaque that is characteristically evanescent, disappearing within 24 to 48 hours.[28]
  • Telangiectasia – A telangiectasia represents an enlargement of superficial blood vessels to the point of being visible.[26]
  • Burrow – A burrow appears as a slightly elevated, grayish, tortuous line in the skin, and is caused by burrowing organisms.[26][27]

Secondary lesions

  • Scale – dry or greasy laminated masses of keratin[27] that represent thickened stratum corneum.[26]
  • Crust – dried serum, pus, or blood usually mixed with epithelial and sometimes bacterial debris.[28]
  • Lichenification – epidermal thickening characterized by visible and palpable thickening of the skin with accentuated skin markings.[1]
  • Excoriation – a punctate or linear abrasion produced by mechanical means (often scratching), usually involving only the epidermis but not uncommonly reaching the papillary dermis.[27]
  • Induration – dermal thickening causing the cutaneous surface to feel thicker and firmer.[26]
  • Atrophy – refers to a loss of tissue, and can be epidermal, dermal, or subcutaneous.[27] With epidermal atrophy, the skin appears thin, translucent, and wrinkled.[26] Dermal or subcutaneous atrophy is represented by depression of the skin.[26]
  • Maceration – softening and turning white of the skin due to being consistently wet.


"Configuration" refers to how lesions are locally grouped ("organized"), which contrasts with how they are distributed (see next section). Template:Colbegin

  • Agminate
  • Annular
  • Arciform or arcuate
  • Circinate
  • Digitate
  • Discoid
  • Figurate
  • Guttate
  • Herpetiform
  • Linear
  • Nummular
  • Mamillated
  • Reticular or reticulated
  • Serpiginous or gyrate
  • Stellate
  • Targetoid
  • Verrucous



"Distribution" refers to how lesions are localized. They may be confined to a single area (a patch) or may exist in several places. Several distributions correlate an anatomical reference.

Some correlate with the means by which a given area becomes affected. For example, contact dermatitis correlates with locations where allergen has elicited an allergic immune response. Varicella Zoster Virus is known to recur (after its initial presentation as Chicken Pox) as Shingles. Chicken Pox appears nearly everywhere on the body but Shingles tends to follow one or two dermatomes. (For example, the eruptions may appear along the bra line, on either or both sides of the patient.)

  • Generalized
  • Symmetric (one side mirrors the other)
  • Flexural (Front of the fingers)
  • Extensor (back of the fingers)
  • Intertriginous
  • Morbilliform
  • Palmoplantar (palm of the hand, bottom of the foot)
  • Periorificial
  • Periungual (under a finger or toe nail)
  • Alopecia (hair loss)
  • Blaschkoid
  • Photodistributed (places where sunlight reaches)
  • Zosteriform or dermatomal (associated with a particular nerve)

Other related terms: Template:Colbegin

  • Collarette
  • Comedo
  • Confluent
  • Eczema (a type of dermatitis)
  • Granuloma
  • Livedo
  • Purpura
  • Erythema (redness)
  • Horn (a cell type)
  • Poikiloderma


Combined (conjoint) terms (maculopapular, papuloerosive, papulopustular, papulovesicular, papulosquamous, tuberoulcerative, vesiculobullous, vesiculopustular) are used to describe eruptions that evolve from one type of lesion to the next so often appear as having traits of both, when transitioning [citation needed].



  • Hyperkeratosis
  • Parakeratosis
  • Hypergranulosis
  • Acanthosis
  • Papillomatosis
  • Dyskeratosis
  • Acantholysis
  • Spongiosis
  • Hydropic swelling
  • Exocytosis
  • Vacuolization
  • Erosion
  • Ulceration
  • Lentiginous


See also

There are several other skin diseases as well.

For more details on this topic, see list of skin diseases.

In medicine, the branch concerned with the skin is called dermatology.

See also


  1. 1.0 1.1 1.2 1.3 1.4 1.5 Miller, Jeffrey H.; Marks, James G. (2006). Lookingbill and Marks' Principles of Dermatology, Saunders.
  2. Lippens S, Hoste E, Vandenabeele P, Agostinis P, Declercq W (April 2009). Cell death in the skin. Apoptosis 14 (4): 549–69.
  3. King, L.S. (1954). What Is Disease?. Philosophy of Science 21 (3): 193–203.
  4. Bluefarb, Samuel M. (1984). Dermatology, Upjohn Co.
  5. 5.0 5.1 5.2 5.3 Lynch, Peter J. (1994). Dermatology, Williams & Wilkins.
  6. Tilles G, Wallach D (1989). [The history of nosology in dermatology]. Ann Dermatol Venereol 116 (1): 9–26.
  7. Lambert WC, Everett MA (October 1981). The nosology of parapsoriasis. J. Am. Acad. Dermatol. 5 (4): 373–95.
  8. Jackson R (1977). Historical outline of attempts to classify skin diseases. Can Med Assoc J 116 (10): 1165–8.
  9. Copeman PW (February 1995). The creation of global dermatology. J R Soc Med 88 (2): 78–84.
  10. Fitzpatrick, Thomas B.; Klauss Wolff; Wolff, Klaus Dieter; Johnson, Richard R.; Suurmond, Dick; Richard Suurmond (2005). Fitzpatrick's color atlas and synopsis of clinical dermatology, McGraw-Hill Medical Pub. Division.
  11. Werner B (August 2009). [Skin biopsy and its histopathologic analysis: Why? What for? How? Part I]. An Bras Dermatol 84 (4): 391–5.
  12. Werner B (October 2009). [Skin biopsy with histopathologic analysis: why? what for? how? part II]. An Bras Dermatol 84 (5): 507–13.
  13. Xiaowei Xu; Elder, David A.; Rosalie Elenitsas; Johnson, Bernett L.; Murphy, George E. (2008). Lever's Histopathology of the Skin, Hagerstwon, MD: Lippincott Williams & Wilkins.
  14. (2009) Weedon's Skin Pathology, 2-Volume Set: Expert Consult - Online and Print, Edinburgh: Churchill Livingstone.
  15. 15.0 15.1 15.2 15.3 Burns, Tony; et al. (2006) Rook's Textbook of Dermatology CD-ROM. Wiley-Blackwell. ISBN 1-4051-3130-6.
  16. Paus R, Cotsarelis G (1999). The biology of hair follicles. N Engl J Med 341 (7): 491–7.
  17. Goldsmith, Lowell A. (1983). Biochemistry and physiology of the skin, Oxford University Press.
  18. Fuchs E (February 2007). Scratching the surface of skin development. Nature 445 (7130): 834–42.
  19. Fuchs E, Horsley V (April 2008). More than one way to skin .. Genes Dev. 22 (8): 976–85.
  20. 20.0 20.1 20.2 20.3 20.4 20.5 Wolff, Klaus Dieter; et al. (2008). Fitzpatrick's Dermatology in General Medicine, McGraw-Hill Medical.
  21. Bolognia, Jean L.; et al. (2007). Dermatology, St. Louis: Mosby.
  22. 22.0 22.1 22.2 Rapini, Ronald P. (2005). Practical dermatopathology, Elsevier Mosby.
  23. Grant-Kels JM (2007). Color Atlas of Dermatopathology (Dermatology: Clinical & Basic Science), 163, Informa Healthcare.
  24. Ryan, T (1991). "Cutaneous Circulation" Physiology, biochemistry, and molecular biology of the skin, 2nd, New York: Oxford University Press.
  25. Swerlick RA, Lawley TJ (January 1993). Role of microvascular endothelial cells in inflammation. J. Invest. Dermatol. 100 (1): 111S–115S.
  26. 26.00 26.01 26.02 26.03 26.04 26.05 26.06 26.07 26.08 26.09 26.10 26.11 26.12 26.13 Callen, Jeffrey (2000). Color atlas of dermatology, Philadelphia: W.B. Saunders.
  27. 27.00 27.01 27.02 27.03 27.04 27.05 27.06 27.07 27.08 27.09 27.10 27.11 27.12 27.13 27.14 James, William D.; et al. (2006). Andrews' Diseases of the Skin: Clinical Dermatology, Saunders Elsevier.
  28. 28.0 28.1 28.2 28.3 28.4 28.5 28.6 28.7 28.8 Fitzpatrick, Thomas B.; Klauss Wolff; Wolff, Klaus Dieter; Johnson, Richard R.; Suurmond, Dick; Richard Suurmond (2005). Fitzpatrick's color atlas and synopsis of clinical dermatology, New York: McGraw-Hill Medical Pub. Division.
  29. 29.0 29.1 Cotran, Ramzi S.; Kumar, Vinay; Fausto, Nelson; Nelso Fausto; Robbins, Stanley L.; Abbas, Abul K. (2005). Robbins and Cotran pathologic basis of disease, St. Louis, Mo: Elsevier Saunders.
  • Sheppard,N. P., O'Loughlin, S and Malone,JP (1986). Psychogenic skin disease: a review of 35 cases.The British Journal of Psychiatry,149: 636-643. doi: 10.1192/bjp.149.5.636

Template:Disorders of skin appendages

Template:Medical conditions

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