ANATOMY & PHYSIOLOGY OF THE SKIN AND ITS RELATIONSHIP TO THE GENERAL HEALTH
To be able to understand skin diseases it is necessary to know the functions of the skin in relationship to the whole body. A few words about the anatomy and physiology of the skin are necessary.
The skin is a fibrous structure varying considerably in thickness in the different parts of the body. It is covered by several layers of epithelial cells, the outer of which form the epidermis and the inner layer the dermis. Dipping down from the epidermis into the dermis are certain other epithelial structures, the hair follicles with their sebaceous glands and the sweat glands. The hairs grow from enlarged papillae at the bottom of the pits of the hair follicles. They are present all over the skin except on the palms and soles. Sweat glands are present in all parts of the skin.
The skin is the external cover of the body and it continues as the mucous membranes which line the orifices of the body. We can say that these orifices are inversions of the skin. In fact, the entire digestive tract is merely an inversion of the skin and we may say quoted from Some Human Ailments, by William Howard Hay, (George S. Harrap & Co., London, Bombay, Sydney) “that the contents of the digestive canal are really not inside the body until they have been digested and absorbed”. Considering this fact we may call the skin the reflector of the internal body’s conditions.
The skin has four functions: (1) to protect the body; (2) to regulate by its secretions of the body’s temperature; (3) to help in the respiration; (4) to help in the metabolism by eliminating poisonous slags and thus helping to keep the internal body free from pernicious accumulations.
The importance of a normal function of the skin compared with the function of other organs can easily be understood by the following facts; No human being can live (According to Hay, loc.cit.) “if the lungs do not function 5 minutes, if the skin function is suppressed 5 hours, if the kidneys do not work 5 days, or the bowels might cease to work 5 weeks”. That means that the skin stands second in importance regarding the vital part played in the body’s well-being.
We now understand the importance of keeping the skin as healthy as possible. We must be aware that all sorts of chemical debris are continually passing through the skin. It is the passage of this internal toxic material through the skin which sets up irritations or inflammation which have been wrongly classified as skin-diseases. If there are too many toxic slags in the body, nature seeks an outlet. These may be acute fever, indigestion, chills, asthmatic attacks, perspiration, or eruptions of the skin. Generally speaking, skin diseases are an expression of an internal morbid condition, mostly due to intoxication.
Every experienced physician know the relationship between asthma or neuritis and skin diseases; as long as the skin eruption is evident, that means as long as the accumulated poisonous slags are thrown out through the skin, asthma and neuritis vanish, but they reappear, as soon as the so-called skin disease is “cured” by a strong ointment. That means, that the function of the skin has been suppressed by an external application of an offensive medicament.
We must realize that all diseases are only a symptom of a toxic state of the body and that such a toxic state expresses itself through many and most different symptom-complexes.
We owe this knowledge to the famous Dutch physician, Booerhaeve, the “father of clinical medicine”, who stated:
“Keep your head cool, your feet warm and never gorge your inside.”
That especially applies to skin diseases. If we clean the whole system and give a natural diet, if we keep the colon as clean as possible, every one of the many so-called skin diseases will as readily disappear, as will many other morbid conditions, due to the internal uncleanliness.
It is always the weak organ which suffers most in consequence of accumulations of internal intoxication.
If our heritage is a delicate skin, we are liable to skin symptoms as the earliest signs of an increasing intoxication. It is in these patients that regulation of the disturbed internal balance will make the delicate skin as clear and fine as before it was affected.
Eczema and psoriasis, the most common forms of skin eruptions, will soon disappear, when the internal chemistry is almost normal.
The same applies to Acne vulgaris, a very common skin trouble, especially in young people. Every case of acne is nothing else than a symptom of an internal disorder, proving that the lungs, kidneys and bowels are unable to keep the body clear of its own irritating poisonous slags. Every boil or pimple, every carbuncle, every eruption of whatever nature means the same, excepting only the few cases due to external effects, such as bites of various insects or snakes, poisoning by ivy, or local application of chemical irritations directly to the skin. (Hay, loc. cit.)
We have learned that the so-called skin allergies can be cured quickly, when the body is again in proper chemical balance. These allergies include those skins which are very sensitive to vegetable irritants, like primrose, or to certain foods like onions, spinach, asparagus, various fruits and berries, etc. All these conditions can be cured by purging, enemas, the right diet and physical exercise.
Hence the strengthening of our skin is of the greatest importance. It is a mistake to consider the skin from a purely cosmetic point of view. We must always think of its relation to general health. We must try to give the skin its natural colour and texture. That is the best way to keep the body healthy. Next to breathing pure air, we must keep our skin clean and able to do its function. Julius Caesar said that the health of his army was due to the fact that every man had to sweat at least once a day.
Indeed, such a daily sweat is the best way to keep the pores of the skin open, giving the skin an opportunity to unload freely the poisonous slags, produced in the body as the result of its combustion of fuels, the death of its cells and the metabolism of food materials taken in with the meals.
All these poisons cannot be sufficiently eliminated by the lungs, kidneys or bowels. The skin has to take its share in this task. But the skin will be able to do it only by proper exercise, by producing sweat, which can be aid by brisk rubbing with a rough towel and thorough cleanliness.
Healthy blood is therefore essential for a healthy skin.
Glands with their inner secretion purify the blood and normalize its stream. The sexual glands are performing this function and are helping the inefficiency of the thyroid and other glands. They especially stimulate the pancreas and the metabolism of the skin. This gland is very important, as it assists the proper assimilation of the food-protein. For instance, the above mentioned acne in its different forms is due to the ineffective function of the sexual glands, giving rise to an increased activity of the sebaceous glands in the few years following puberty. Irregularities of menstruation appear to be the underlying cause in nearly 50 per cent. in cases of girls and young women. On the other hand, the period of change of life makes both sexes more liable to suffer from chronic eczema in its different forms. We have learned that Hormovita, which contains the secretion of the sexual organs, is able to prevent or to cure acne as well as eczema in those patients. Hormovita can be taken either in liquid form or in tablets.
Before discussing the most important skin diseases, I will explain some terms which will be used throughout all the following chapters. That is the best way to avoid repetitions and to make the following statements intelligible.
Low and Fairby, in Price: A Textbook of the Practice of Medicine (Oxford University Press, 1937) give the following explanations:
A macule is a spot which is not raised above the skin.
A papule is a solid elevation usually not exceeding the size of a pea.
A tubercule or nodule is an elevation usually between a pea and a hazel nut in size. The term is also used for small, solid swellings in the substance of the skin and subcutaneous tissue, which do not necessarily project above the surface.
A tumour is a swelling exceeding a hazel nut in size; it need not be necessarily solid, but this term is not usually applied to thin-walled superficial fluid swellings.
A wheal is a circumscribed elevation of the skin of a transitory character, in which oedema is so marked as to force the blood out of the superficial capillaries and so produce a dead white elevation.
A vesicle is an elevation not larger than a pea containing clear fluid.
A bulla is a similar lesion of larger size; in other words a blister.
A pustule is a similar lesion to a vesicle, but contains pus instead of clear fluid.
A scale is a lamella of the horny layer of the skin.
A crust is a mass produced by the drying of exudates of the skin. An excoriation is an abrasion of the superficial layers of the epidermis.
A fissure is a crack in the skin. An ulcer is a circumscribed loss of tissue involving the whole thickness of the epidermis.