Skin physiology generally refers to the various functions of human or animal skin. Perspiration and regulation of body temperature are a few of the main functions that may be described in skin physiology. The skin also goes through a metamorphic process over a period of time, and this is also part of skin physiology. Skin processes, such as wrinkling due to aging, generally happen gradually.
In learning about skin physiology, one can recognize there are several vital functions of this organ. Protecting a living being from infection is one essential purpose of skin. When the skin becomes damaged or peeled away due to disease or accident, a person is prone to massive infection. Without the skin's protection, muscle tissue and bone will become exposed and subject to injury and disease.
The underlying connective tissue of the skin is known as the dermis, which adds a dense layer of protection to tendons, muscles, and bone. Layered on top of the dermis is the outer skin known as the epidermis, which is lighter and more fragile. In conjunction, both layers of skin serve as a barrier to pathogens. Without the skin's natural barrier, these pathogens could enter the body's bloodstream, causing illness and disease. The skin's protective layers also form a shield against damage from the elements, such as heat, cold, and wind. Additionally, the skin provides protection from bruises that could harm connective tissues or vital organs.
Physiology of skin involves more than protection against disease and injury. When a person becomes overheated, the skin acts as a natural cooling system. Helping to regulate the body's temperature through perspiration can prevent a potentially life-threatening illness, such as heatstroke. When a person is exposed to the extreme cold, the brain will retrieve information from the skin, causing a response, such as shivering. This function also serves to regulate body temperature.
Several nerve endings in the skin helps provide sensation which can alert a person to potential harm. Without the skin's sensory receptors, one could not feel pain when touching a hot or sharp surface. In essence, the skin acts as a wired alarm system for the body.
The study of skin physiology teaches that human skin is quite resilient. When the epidermis becomes damaged, it can quickly heal if enriched by adequate blood supply. When the underlying layers become severely damaged however, scar tissue can become unsightly or cause health issues.