If you were asked to list your body's organs how many of you would suggest your skin?
It is actually your body’s largest organ and is vital to the human body in order to carry out a range of functions, these include:
- Protecting the bodies internal organs and tissues
- Acting as a barrier against infection
- Regulating body temperature
- Enabling the body to detect sensations: touch, pain, heat, and cold
The skin is made up of 3 layers. The outer layer is called the epidermis and is approximately 0.5-1.5mm thick. It is made up of five layers of cells which work their way up to the surface of your skin. The dead cells on the surface of the epidermis are shed approximately every two weeks.
The dermis (which is an underlying layer of fibrous tissue) is approximately 0.3-3mm thick. This is made up of a mix of three types of tissue. It also contains your hair follicles and sweat glands, as well as small blood vessels and nerves.
The final layer is the subcutaneous fat or subcutis. This layer varies in thickness depending on the person. The subcutis contains your larger blood vessels and nerves. It also regulates the temperature of your skin and body.
Skin can be damaged through
- Contact with sharp or abrasive objects
- Contact with Electrical Current
- Exposure to extremes of temperature
- Contact with harmful chemicals
- Overexposure to ultraviolet radiation
All of these will damage the cells within the layers of the skin. The severity will vary on how long the skin has been exposed to the damaging conditions.
Burns treatment categorises burn injuries to help decide on the right treatment to aid healing. There are three main types of burns:
(first-degree) burns superficial epidermal
(second-degree) deep dermal or partial thickness burns
(third-degree) full thickness burns Image
In the UK 13,000 patients a year are admitted to hospital with serious burn injuries. Over half of these admissions are children under the age of five. Burn and scald injuries caused by hot drinks or other domestic accidents can be extremely serious in children.
Such injuries can leave life-long scarring. Visible scarring can have a emotional and psychological impact on a child as they grow up. Additionally, thickening of the skin and loss of pliability caused by scar tissue can severely limit movement and lead to significant disability. Scars can cause pain and itching which can lead to further distress. Read more about scarring and see pictures.
Child burns survivors often have to undergo further operations as they grow to release scars to allow growth. Additional surgery may also be required to reconstruct the skin to improve their physical appearance. There is a large and unmet need for developing new treatments to reduce scarring in children.
Burn injuries in adults are also frequently life changing with scarring causing disability, pain and visible disfigurement. Advances in the treatment of children’s burn and scald injuries have the potential to be adapted for the treatment of adult injuries.
Find out how to treat a burn.