Exfoliative dermatitis : Definition

Definition

Exfoliative dermatitis is widespread scaling of the skin, often with itching (pruritus), skin redness (erythroderma), and hair loss. It may occur in severe cases of many common skin conditions, such as eczema and psoriasis. It is sometimes caused by an allergy to drugs.

A person with erythroderma or exfoliative dermatitis often needs hospital care or admission to an intensive-care burn unit.

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Skin layers

The skin is the largest organ of the body. The skin and its derivatives (hair, nails, sweat and oil glands) make up the integumentary system. One of the main functions of the skin is protection. It protects the body from external factors such as bacteria, chemicals, and temperature. The skin contains secretions that can kill bacteria and the pigment melanin provides a chemical pigment defense against ultraviolet light that can damage skin cells. Another important function of the skin is body temperature regulation. When the skin is exposed to a cold temperature, the blood vessels in the dermis constrict. This allows the blood which is warm, to bypass the skin. The skin then becomes the temperature of the cold it is exposed to. Body heat is conserved since the blood vessels are not diverting heat to the skin anymore. Among its many functions the skin is an incredible organ always protecting the body from external agents.

Exfoliative dermatitis : Definition


Review Date : 10/28/2008
Reviewed By : Michael Lehrer, M.D., Department of Dermatology, University of Pennsylvania Medical Center, Philadelphia, PA. Review provided by VeriMed Healthcare Network. Also reviewed by David Zieve, MD, MHA, Medical Director, A.D.A.M., Inc.

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