Stephen J. Schueler, M.D.

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Loss of Pigmentation from the Skin Anatomy

To better understand vitiligo, it helps to understand the anatomy of the skin.

The skin contains three main layers:

  • Epidermis:
    • The superficial layer that makes up the surface of the skin
    • It is composed of skin cells and can be divided into 5 layers based on cell type.
    • The top layer of the epidermis, the stratum corneum, is made of dead, flat skin cells that shed about every 2 weeks.
    • The thickness of the epidermis varies, according to location: it is very thick over the soles of the feet, and very thin over the ears.
  • Dermis:
    • Lies beneath the epidermis
    • Also varies in thickness depending on the location of the skin. It is .3 mm on the eyelid and 3.0 mm on the back.
    • The dermis is composed of 2 layers that contain a connective tissue called collagen
    • The dermis contains blood vessels, nerves, sweat glands, and hair follicles.
    • The number of structures in the dermis varies, according to location.
    • The dermis under the arms contains more sweat glands and hair follicles than the dermis on the back.
  • Subcutaneous layer:
    • Mainly fat and connective tissue.
    • Contains blood vessels and nerves.

Last Updated: Jan 10, 2011 References
Authors: Stephen J. Schueler, MD; John H. Beckett, MD; D. Scott Gettings, MD
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PubMed Loss of Pigmentation from the Skin References
  1. Arroyo MP, Tift L. Vitiligo therapy: where are we now? J Drugs Dermatol. 2003 Aug;2(4):404-8. [12884463]
  2. Boissy RE, Manga P. On the etiology of contact/occupational vitiligo. Pigment Cell Res. 2004 Jun;17(3):208-14. [15140065]
  3. Dogra S, Parsad D, Handa S, Kanwar AJ. Late onset vitiligo: a study of 182 patients. Int J Dermatol. 2005 Mar;44(3):193-6. [15807724]
  4. Kostovic K, Pasic A. New treatment modalities for vitiligo: focus on topical immunomodulators. Drugs. 2005;65(4):447-59. [15733009]
  5. Mason CP, Gawkrodger DJ. Vitiligo presentation in adults. Clin Exp Dermatol. 2005 Jul;30(4):344-5. [15953063]
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