The skin is the protective barrier between the inside of our bodies and the outside world of microorganisms, parasites and toxins. It is often the site of inflammation and infections.
In past times, before the advent of cleanliness and antibiotics, mankind was plagued by erysipelas, boils, carbuncles, and other severe infections of the skin, which are rarely seen now. The beta hemolytic streptococcus and Staphylococcus aureus were ubiquitous in the past, and mostly are contained today.
Severe Infections presently require some skin abnormality, immune deficiency, neglect, animal bite or other breach of skin integrity to be a problem. Antibiotic resistance, however, is allowing some organisms like MERSA to make a comeback.
ECZEMA. or Atopic Dermatitis, was common in my medical practice. This condition weakens the skin barrier, allowing Staphylococcal infection to gain a foothold. In my day, If there were a flare of eczema severity, antibiotics would often help. Leg edema and swelling. such as from heart failure, especially coupled with diabetes and blood vessel disease is also an invitation to infection, such as cellulitis.
Redness, swelling, warmth and pain- the classic rubor, tumor, calor and dolor- as well as swollen local lymph nodes and fever often betray infection of the skin. Please see the recently posted infographic on celulitis.
IMMUNE DEFICIENCY raises the likelihood and risk of severe skin infections. Infection from “flesh-eating bacteria”, often beta hemolytic streptococci in deep tissue planes , is a medical emergency. Immediate surgery is often needed.
Disproportionate PAIN after injury or surgery is often a clue. Certain age groups have characteristic skin infections, such as the scalded skin syndrome of infants, and the acne of adolescents. Viruses, molds, and arthropods can also infect the skin.
Viruses, such as herpes in particular can simulate bacterial infection. Ringworm from fungi is easy to distinguish, but arthropod bites, and especially bee sting can look very much like bacterial infection. Scabies and mite infestation are so itchy as to be distinct.
Topical antibiotics applied on skin breaks like cuts or breaks are useful in preventing infection. These ointments and creams are like “artificial skin”. Once again, prevention is key.
THERMOREGULATION, preservation of the normal body temperature, is well developed in humans, and monitoring the body temperature has been useful since the development of thermometers.
Indirect measurement by Infrared detectors is being widely used today to detect FEVER as a sign of Covid in gatherings such as schools. Reactive increase of body temperature in a cool environment is a body defense mechanism that I have discussed earlier. Contrary to general practice, Fever, in my opinion, should be left untreated unless excessive, such as above 103 degrees F., or even 104 degrees.
Excessive environmental temperature, such as in a closed car, Jacuzzi, or heat wave can defeat the body’s ability to defend the normal temperature. Children, with their high body surface to mass ratio, are particularly at risk, as periodic newspaper articles testify. HEAT STROKE is the most serious of heat-related illnesses, leading to high and increasing body temperature, mental symptoms, even convulsions, and is a MEDICAL EMERGENCY.
The treatment is to call 911, and to lower the body temperature by removing insulating clothing, and immersing in cold water. There are a variety of other conditions based on excessive exertion, water or salt loss.
These include HEAT EXHAUSTION. Older Workers are particularly susceptible, and medical clinic attention may be needed for fluid and electrolyte replacement. MUSCLE CRAMPS and even damage( Rhabdomyolysis), FAINTING (this has been discussed before) and Heat Rash can result from too hot an environment. Furry Animals Pant instinctively to get their highly vascular Tongue to “air condition” their bodies. Humans should dress and exercise appropriately when the environment requires it.
The US Surgeon General’s office has released a report emphasizing the importance of making hypertension control a national public health priority. Vice Admiral Jerome Adams, MD, MPH, the 20th US Surgeon General, discusses the report’s background and recommendations.
Recorded October 7, 2020.
Red hair and freckles are associated with MCR-1 gene variants, and large areas of skin with lowered melanin protection against the adverse effects of the sun. I have red hair and freckles, for which I was teased. My response was that I had a lot of Iron in my blood, and that the freckles were Rust. This is ironic (no pun intended).
Since becoming an Octogenarian, I have had trouble keeping my Iron levels normal. I live in a beach area, where all the young ladies are sunning themselves to promote the socially desirable “bronze goddess” effect, and all of the older ladies hide their leathery skin and wear broad-brimmed hats.
The sun has a good reputation as a health-giver. Being outside does correlate with a lot of beneficial effects, such as enhancing production of Vitamin D. My recommendation, however biased, is to get your Vitamin D in capsule form, and reduce sun exposure.
SUNSHINE, however salutary, is accompanied by invisible, high energy photons capable of breaking DNA strands, and ultimately causing SKIN CANCER. Not accidentally,Visible light has insufficient energy to break bonds, although the rhodopsin in rods and cones do release electrons if stimulated by light.
Actinic Keratoses are the roughened plaques of skin, often on the face, which have a small but definite risk of turning into Cancer. I have a dermatology check every 6 months for precancerous areas to be frozen and destroyed by CO2 spray.
PREVENTION of UV Skin damage is advisable. I wear a broad brimmed hat and UV-blocking sunglasses (UV can promote cataracts and retinal damage as well) when outside in the sun. When swimming I wear a “rashguard” shirt with UV protection in the fabric.
Also, I try to limit my exposure to the Evening and Morning sun, because the light is warmer, and contains less UV. Even with these precautions, I use Sunscreen creams and lotions. I always wondered how a transparent lotion can block UV light.
The explanation lies in the chemicals contained. Such chemicals as Avobenzone and Homosalicylate actually absorb the energy of UV light. Protect yourself now for later health.
HARVARD MAGAZINE (SEPT – OCT 2020): From the book EXERCISED: Why Something We Never Evolved to Do Is Healthy and Rewarding by Daniel E. Lieberman, to be published on September 8, 2020 by Pantheon Books:
‘….many of the mechanisms that slow aging and extend life are turned on by physical activity, especially as we get older. Human health and longevity are thus extended both by and for physical activity.’
Exercise is like scrubbing the kitchen floor so well after a spill that the whole floor ends up being cleaner. The modest stresses caused by exercise trigger a reparative response yielding a general benefit.
In order to elucidate the links between exercise and aging, I propose a corollary to the Grandmother Hypothesis, which I call the Active Grandparent Hypothesis. According to this idea, human longevity was not only selected for but was also made possible by having to work hard during old age to help as many children, grandchildren, and other younger relatives as possible survive and thrive. That is, while there may have been selection for genes (as yet unidentified) that help humans live past the age of 50, there was also selection for genes that repair and maintain our bodies when we are physically active.
Daniel E. Lieberman is a paleoanthropologist at Harvard University, where he is the Edwin M Lerner II Professor of Biological Sciences, and Professor in the Department of Human Evolutionary Biology. He is best known for his research on the evolution of the human head and the evolution of the human body.
Daniel Lieberman, a Cultural Anthropologist from Harvard, makes the case that paleolithic hunter-gatherers Grandparents were helpful, in fact necessary to their families, and evolved to be active into old age. They did not evolve to sit in front of the TV, and modern men pay a penalty if they do.
INACTIVITY at ANY AGE is bad. If you put 20 year olds to bed, both weight and blood pressure go up. The book addresses a conundrum. Free radicals are bad. Exercise runs O2 through the mitochondria, which produces free radicals.
But EXERCISE REDUCES FREE RADICALS. A metaphor is introduced: you spill some tomato juice on the floor. But you clean it up, and the floor becomes cleaner than it was before. You exercise, the muscles suffer some microtears and injury. The REPAIR RESTORES the muscles to better than before, maybe with some extra mitochondria.
The Bodies MECHANISMS are MEANT TO BE USED. DIET is meant to supply the body energy and units for repair, EXERCISE is meant to use that energy, and keep the mechanism lubricated, and SLEEP is meant to allow for time to accomplish repair.
Sleep, Diet and Exercise can all be reconciled by recourse to Paleolithic man, whose activities imprinted our modern bodies.
New England Journal of Medicine (Aug 13, 2020) – In this small, single-center, nonblinded trial involving patients with chronic edema of the leg and cellulitis, compression therapy resulted in a lower incidence of recurrence of cellulitis than conservative treatment.
The researchers have conducted a single-center, randomized, nonblinded trial that aimed to find out an association between the compression therapy and controlled incidents of chronic edema of the leg and people with cellulitis that can be defined as an infection of the skin that involves subcutaneous tissues or the innermost layer of the skin. Cellulitis can be caused by trauma or scratching of other lesions due to animal or human bites that result in fever, extreme pain, and redness of the skin.
I have been using compression stockings for decades, since the discovery of the difference in color of my feet. An evaluation by a vascular surgeon revealed incompetence in the valve of my left popliteal vein. It wasn’t long before I developed small varicose veins.
Comfortable with PREVENTATIVE MEDICINE after a career in ALLERGY, I started wearing Jobst compression stockings, with 30-40 mm of constrictive force. After a decade or so of daily wearing, my big toes started to overlap my second toes, and I began using toe-spreaders; scissor-toe and hammer-toe were my worry, and I wanted to prevent this discomfort.
After a while, I began to notice that the Jobst stockings tended to bunch my toes together. Also, with the developing arthritis in my fingers, it was increasingly hard to get the 30-40mm stockings on without straining my arthritic hands. I now wear OPEN-TOE 15-20mm compression Medi stockings, which are easier to get on, and don’t bunch up my toes.
I still use the visco-elastic toe spreaders. Now, back to the compression stockings for treatment of cellulitis complicating ankle swelling. Of course it works. Beta Hemolytic Streptococci and Staph aureus like nothing better to feed on than a warm pool of interstitial fluid, which is the juice that comprises the ankle swelling.
And BLOOD CLOTS tend to form in the stagnant pools of blood which aggregates in varicose veins, particularly when you are sitting for a long time, such as during a long airline trip. By all means, use compression stockings if you have ankle edema, or even a condition predisposing to ankle edema like varicose veins. Don’t wait for the complication to develop. Be PROACTIVE, and STAY HEALTHY.