Sun | Apr 5, 2020

It may be more than skin deep

Published:Monday | February 11, 2019 | 3:23 PM

Ladies and gentlemen, boys and girls, as you are all aware, you are covered by your skin, which is an important part of your body. It is in fact the body’s largest organ. The skin can often have problems that don’t just contribute to your appearance, but can also indicate a problem deeper inside your body. There are many important functions which the skin provides, that we can’t live without.

It is, therefore, very concerning when some persons, including some medical professionals, insurance companies and other stakeholders, fail to recognise skin disorders as medical problems but oftentimes regard it as cosmetic, trivial or not worth covering as a critical illness.

There is inadequate representation among illnesses and medications covered by our National Health Fund.


Let us take a look at some of the functions of the skin:

- It protects our body from the environment.

- It helps with our fluid balance and makes us waterproof.

- It helps to protect us from infections.

- It helps us to balance our body temperature.

- It helps us to detect sensations such as touch.

- It helps us to absorb ultraviolet light and produce Vitamin D

- It makes up a very important part of our physical appearance.


There are many disorders that the skin can present with. Some of these can be life-threatening. These include skin cancers like melanoma, squamous cell carcinoma; other cancers presenting in the skin like lymphomas, kaposis sarcoma, metastatic lesions from internal cancers, severe drug reactions like Stevens-Johnson syndrome and toxic epidermal necrolysis, blistering disorders like pemphigus vulgaris, serious infections such as staphylococcal scalded skin syndrome, and toxic shock syndrome to name a few.

There are a multitude of other internal diseases that may manifest in the skin. These include:

Diabetes mellitus, thyroid disease, Cushing syndrome, Addison disease, pyoderma gangrenosum, erythema nodosum, lupus erythematosus, Eruptive xanthomas, and the list goes on.

Even skin conditions like acne vulgaris that may be viewed as cosmetic and trivial have been found to cause levels of emotional problems like depression, anxiety and reduced quality of life compared to persons with conditions like diabetes and asthma.

There have been a number of cases of suicide from acne patients. Persons often feel comfortable making negative comments to someone else about their skin without stopping to think of the impact their comments may be having on that person. We should always be guided by the principle of treating others as we would like to be treated.

There have been strong links established between skin disease and stress in many persons. We should all play our role in intentionally reducing our stress levels and don’t give negative comments or situations access to your emotions.

Consider yourself ‘Too blessed to be stressed’.

I do hope and pray that one day, health and insurance stakeholders and people in general will view skin health issues as important as those from any other organ in the body. Why not today?

Dr Arusha Campbell-Chambers is a dermatologist and founder of Dermatology Solutions Skin Clinics & Medi-Spas; email: