Integumentary System

The Integumentary System — An introduction

Click here for Integumentary System in the lab

The integumentary system is at the same time the largest single organ of the body (the skin) and a body system.  It includes an epithelial/connective tissue membrane (the cutaneous membrane) as well as several accessory structures (hair, nails, and glands).

What is it and why do we have an integumentary system?

What is it?

  • The cutaneous membrane and it’s accessory structures
    • Cutaneous membrane:  a membrane with three major layers (epidermis, dermis, and subcutaneous layers)
    • Accessory structures:
      • Hair and hair follicles
      • fingernails and toenails
      • Sweat glands (eccrine and apocrine glands)
      • Oil glands (sebaceous glands)
      • Receptors (for pressure, touch, stretching, heat, and pain)

Why do we have an integumentary system?

  • Help maintain body temperature (muscles make the heat and the skin determines how much heat we release)
  • Communication:  You are communicating something when your face flushes red or goes pale for example…  and you are receiving communication through your skin all the time (you can feel wind blowing, you can feel if things are warm or cold, you can feel when someone gives you a hug…  or pinches you)
  • Protection from infection (as a barrier the skin prevents infectious organisms from getting into the deeper tissues of the body)
  • Protection from dehydration (the skin is water proof and it prevents us from losing water)
  • Protection from trauma (if you receive a blunt injury your skin gets hit first and absorbs at least some of the energy of the hit–  more adipose tissue helps this)
  • Help produce vitamin D (with help from the sun’s UV and from the liver and kidneys)

The integumentary system covers the entire outer surface of the human body, and the majority of the integumentary system’s functions stem from the fact that this system is also the body’s largest and most direct interface with the outside world.

Other fun facts:  Dermatologists study and treat skin conditions, and the skin is the most treated body system (medical treatments and other treatments–  think cosmetology and hair care).

For more detail about the Integumentary System:

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