Stephen J. Schueler, M.D.

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Soft Tissue Infection Anatomy

To better understand skin infections, 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 4, 2011 References
Authors: Stephen J. Schueler, MD; John H. Beckett, MD; D. Scott Gettings, MD
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PubMed Soft Tissue Infection References
  1. Hedrick J. Acute bacterial skin infections in pediatric medicine: current issues in presentation and treatment. Paediatric Drugs. 2003;5 Suppl 1:35-46. [14632104]
  2. Hepburn MJ, Dooley DP, Skidmore PJ, Ellis MW, Starnes WF, Hasewinkle WC. Comparison of short-course (5 days) and standard (10 days) treatment for uncomplicated cellulitis. Arch Intern Med. 2004 Aug 9-23;164(15):1669-74. [15302637]
  3. Laube S, Farrell AM. Bacterial skin infections in the elderly: diagnosis and treatment. Drugs Aging. 2002;19(5):331-42. [12093320]
  4. Murthi GV, Okoye BO, Spicer RD, Cusick EL, Noblett HR. Perianal abscess in childhood. Pediatr Surg Int. 2002 Dec;18(8):689-91. [12598965]
  5. Starkey CR, Steele RW. Medical management of orbital cellulitis. Pediatr Infect Dis J. 2001 Oct;20(10):1002-5. [11642617]
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