Stephen J. Schueler, M.D.

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Skin Hives Anatomy

To better understand urticaria, 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 6, 2011 References
Authors: Stephen J. Schueler, MD; John H. Beckett, MD; D. Scott Gettings, MD
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PubMed Skin Hives References
  1. Baxi S, Dinakar C. Urticaria and angioedema. Immunol Allergy Clin North Am. 2005 May;25(2):353-67, vii. [15878460]
  2. Kozel MM, Bossuyt PM, Mekkes JR, Bos JD. Laboratory tests and identified diagnoses in patients with physical and chronic urticaria and angioedema: A systematic review. J Am Acad Dermatol. 2003 Mar;48(3):409-16. [12637921]
  3. Muller BA. A comprehensive review of physical urticaria. Compr Ther. 2002 Winter;28(4):214-21. [12506491]
  4. Varadarajulu S. Urticaria and angioedema. Controlling acute episodes, coping with chronic cases. Postgrad Med. 2005 May;117(5):25-31. [15948365]
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