Founded in 1856, St John & St Elizabeth Hospital is one of the UK’s largest independent charitable hospitals. Our commitment to our patients is in the quality of our care, the range of our services and the quality of our consultants and staff.
St John & St Elizabeth Hospital is renowned for its highly specialised clinics that provide exemplary care for patients. Our expert Consultants cover the full range of specialties and are able to treat almost any medical condition.
We examine the functions of the skin, what can go wrong and when you might need to attend a private dermatology clinic.
You may be aware that the skin is the largest organ in the body. It’s also the ultimate defence that keeps pathogens and everything else out while helping to regulate our temperature and keep us comfortable. But this multilayered, complex organ — which weighs around eight pounds in adults and covers about 22 square feet — is subject to an incredible array of harmful elements from the many environments it’s subjected to. So it’s not surprising that lots of issues, conditions and diseases can arise.
The skin is also what you first notice most about someone, simply because there’s so much of it, and it’s staring you in the face. Bad skin can be a sign that you’re not taking care of yourself, while those in perfect health often have skin that glows and looks incredible. You can do many things to protect your skin from the elements and look great, at whatever age. And it’s always good to get checked or have a consultation at a private dermatology clinic, where expert dermatologists can give you the best advice and treatment.
Dermatology is a branch of medicine concerned with the skin and deals with everything, from skin cancers and disorders to cosmetic procedures to eliminate wrinkles and restore youthful looks. But it goes deeper than just the skin and also treats issues relating to the mucous membranes, the hair and nails. Dermatology is a medical speciality that’s vital for ensuring you look good, feel great and are healthy. And as many people know all too well, looking after your skin properly can take a lot of time and effort.
The Many and Varied Functions of the Skin
It can be easy to overlook the skin as nothing special and something that’s just “there” not doing all that much. Perhaps the only time we give much thought at all to our skin is when we damage it with a cut, bruise or sunburn. Then, we have to give it some care and attention, or we’ll suffer more. The skin is so vital that if enough of it is damaged — at least 30%, as in the case of severe burns caused by a fire — a person may not survive.
The skin is comprised of three layers:
The epidermis, which is constantly regenerating — dead cells move to the surface and fall away.
The dermis, which contains hair follicles, sweat glands (that help control our temperature) and sebaceous glands. Sebaceous glands create the oily substance sebum responsible for moisturising the hairs and skin and help keep pathogens and dust away.
The subcutaneous and innermost layer, which has fat cells for insulation, blood vessels, nerves and tissue that connects the skin to the body.
So as we know by now, one of the skin’s main functions is to act as a barrier against damage, whether from harmful substances, the sun, mechanical objects that could cause injury or many more types of risks. It also keeps moisture trapped in the body and regulates our temperature by activating the sweat glands when it’s too hot — they release water to the skin’s surface that then evaporates, taking heat away. The skin protects us against harmful UV rays by producing melanin — the pigment that turns your skin darker and gives you a suntan — when exposed to the sun.
And as many people know, the skin produces vitamin D when struck by the sun’s rays. Vitamin D is essential for good health and protecting the teeth and bones, as it plays a crucial role in the absorption of calcium. Many people in northern parts of the world don’t get enough of this vitamin during the long winter months — when there’s little or no sun — and may have to take a vitamin D supplement, or their health may suffer.
Because the skin is packed with nerves, it’s also a sensory organ. This function serves to give us the sense of touch and protects us from harm, such as from something that’s too hot and could burn us. If all that wasn’t enough work for the multitasking skin, it also has a role as an immune organ, as it encounters a vast array of pathogens — such as bacteria and viruses — that are always trying to gain access to our body.
Problems That Can Develop with the Skin
Given the complexities of the skin and the continual harsh environments it’s subjected to — including the sun and sunbeds — it’s not surprising that many things can go wrong and give rise to conditions and diseases that can be fatal if not treated in time. That includes the three types of skin cancer: basal cell carcinoma, squamous cell carcinoma and melanoma, the latter of which is the most serious and can be fatal.
At the Dermatology Clinic of St John & St Elizabeth Hospital — a leading private dermatology clinic in London — we treat patients from all over the country and indeed the world. Our expert dermatologists and skincare specialists effectively screen for the three kinds of cancer as well as the following skin conditions:
Lipomas — fatty tumours just under the skin that are benign
Psoriasis — skin cells that divide faster than usual and cause a buildup
Rosacea — redness of the face triggered by the sun and other causes
Moles — common dark spots caused by pigmented cells grouping together
Cysts — harmless growths that can become sore and hurt
Milia — white bumps that appear in groups and can repeatedly appear
Warts — caused by the human papillomavirus and lead to a build of keratin
Acne — when pores become blocked by oil, dead skin or bacteria.
When to Attend a Private Dermatology Clinic?
You should attend a private dermatology clinic if you have an existing skin problem or if you notice something that wasn’t there before, like a mole or other growth, as well as dark spots or a collection of them. It’s especially important if you’ve spent a lot of time in the sun — the skin can become damaged, and you may need treatment if something develops.
If it’s your first time attending a private dermatology clinic, you can expect your consultant to ask you questions about your general health and any history of problems with your skin. They will carefully examine your skin and may order tests if something looks like it might warrant further investigation — usually blood tests or a biopsy. This will then allow the dermatologist to diagnose the problem and work out an effective treatment plan.
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