The skin, hairs and nails make up this system. They collectively serve aesthetic and protective functions.
The skin is composed of two layers: the epidermis and the dermis. The epidermis is the superficial tough covering while the dermis is the deeper layer rich in blood vessels and supplying the epidermis with nutrients.
The skin contains hair, sweat glands, oil-producing glands, blood vessels and nerves. They all serve important functions.
- Protection against chemicals, particles, dryness, ultraviolet radiation, microbes.
- Prevents loss of water and electrolytes.
- Shock absorber
- Sensation, by the specialist nerve endings mediating pain leading to withdrawal, and itch leading to scratch and e.g. removal of a parasite.
- Vitamin D synthesis.
- Temperature regulation (sweat glands and blood vessels)
- Protection, and fine manipulation of small objects (the nails)
- Testosterone synthesis
- Psychosocial, grooming and sexual behaviour (hair, nails, appearance and tactile quality of skin).
Symptoms of Integumentary Disease
It is quite easy to notice when changes occur on your skin, hair or nails especially when they are in exposed areas or places where your eyes can easily get to. Here are some of them:
- New or changing skin lesion
- Red scaly rashes
- Reddish skin
- Skin swelling
- Light sensitivity
- Leg ulcers
- Abnormal skin colour
- Nail discolouration
- Nail deformities or abnormal nail shapes
- Scanty hair
New or changing skin lesion
A new lesion on the skin may represent a cancerous growth. It may also be due to a less serious condition. However, when new changes are noticed in a lesion which has been present for some time, there is a cause for concern.
This is a very common symptom in skin disease. It may also be caused by several other conditions like pregnancy, liver, kidney and blood diseases as well as cancers. In some cases, however, the cause is not known.
Red scaly rashes
These may be caused by skin allergy, fungal infections, drug reactions or syphilis. Allergies usually affect the face, inside of the arms and back of the knees. Fungal infections usually affect the torso and upper shoulders. Drug reactions are widespread, while syphilis usually affects the torso, upper arms and thighs, as well as the palms and soles.
This is also called erythroderma, and may occur with or without scaling, affecting almost all the body surface. In dark people, the skin may rather give a purplish hue. It can occur in every age group but older people are at greatest risk. Eczema or drug reactions may rarely progress to erythroderma. Other causes include blood cancer and some fungal infections.
This condition is also known as urticaria. It may be due to a problem with the immune system. Allergic reactions to foods and injections; drug reactions; contact with animal saliva or latex; heat, cold, pressure, sun or water; viral infections, and pregnancy can also cause urticarial.
These are fluid-filled spaces within the skin. They can be localised or wide-spread. There are several causes of blisters and they include bacterial, fungal and viral infections; eczema; insect bites and drug reactions.
Light rays from the sun is the main cause of skin cancers worldwide. Some specific kinds of rays may cause skin rashes in sensitive individuals. Light sensitivity may be caused by some drugs, enzyme deficiencies and vitamin B3 deficiency. The cause may be unknown in some cases.
Ulceration of the skin is the complete loss of the top layer (epidermis) and part of the deep layer (dermis). It may be caused by blood vessel disease, diabetes mellitus, sickle-cell disease, syphilis, leprosy, cancers or injuries.
Abnormal skin colour
Lighter than normal skin colour may be caused by albinism, eczema and yeast infection. Darker than normal skin colour may be due to drug reactions, pregnancy, use of oral contraceptives, adrenal disease and kidney disease.
Ridging and beading of the nail is not abnormal and increases with age. Similarly, occasional white flecks are seen frequently in normal nails and are due to airspaces within the plate.
In some inherited disease conditions, the nails are grossly thickened, especially at the free edge, and discoloured from birth. Trauma such as habitual picking of the nail or from wearing ill-fitting shoes can discolour or disfigure it.
Systemic diseases such as iron-deficiency anaemia may cause the nails to be spoon-shaped. The tip of the finger may become bulbous and swollen due to a lot of conditions affecting the respiratory, cardiovascular or digestive systems. Whitening of the nails may be due to reduced body protein. ‘Half-and-half’ nails (white and red-brown) are seen in some patients with kidney failure. Rarely drugs like anti-malarials may discolour nails.
Scanty scalp hair (alopecia) may be caused by scalp fungal infections, pulling of the hair, cosmetic, syphilis, viral infection, thyroid disease, diabetes mellitus, HIV disease, nutritional deficiency, liver disease and irradiation from x-rays.