Stephen J. Schueler, M.D.

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Psoriasis Anatomy

To better understand psoriasis, 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 3, 2011 References
Authors: Stephen J. Schueler, MD; John H. Beckett, MD; D. Scott Gettings, MD
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PubMed Psoriasis References
  1. Aaronson DS, Lebwohl M. Review of therapy of psoriasis: the prebiologic armamentarium. Dermatol Clin. 2004 Oct;22(4):379-88, viii. [15450334]
  2. Afifi T, de Gannes G, Huang C, Zhou Y. Topical therapies for psoriasis: evidence-based review. Can Fam Physician. 2005 Apr;51:519-25. [15856971]
  3. Bruner CR, Feldman SR, Ventrapragada M, Fleischer AB Jr. A systematic review of adverse effects associated with topical treatments for psoriasis. Dermatol Online J. 2003 Feb;9(1):2. [12639460]
  4. Mason J, Mason AR, Cork MJ. Topical preparations for the treatment of psoriasis: a systematic review. Br J Dermatol. 2002 Mar;146(3):351-64. [11952534]
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