Stephen J. Schueler, M.D.

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Solar Keratosis Anatomy

To better understand actinic keratosis 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: Nov 9, 2010 References
Authors: Stephen J. Schueler, MD; John H. Beckett, MD; D. Scott Gettings, MD
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PubMed Solar Keratosis References
  1. Del Rosso JQ. New and emerging topical approaches for actinic keratoses. Cutis. 2003 Oct;72(4):273-6, 279. [14604078]
  2. Jorizzo JL, Carney PS, Ko WT, Robins P, Weinkle SH, Werschler WP. Treatment options in the management of actinic keratosis. Cutis. 2004 Dec;74(6 Suppl):9-17. [15666897]
  3. Spencer JM, Hazan C, Hsiung SH, Robins P. Therapeutic decision making in the therapy of actinic keratoses. J Drugs Dermatol. 2005 May-Jun;4(3):296-301. [15898284]
  4. Yu TC, Rahman Z, Ross BS. Actinic keratoses--surgical and physical therapeutic modalities. Cutis. 2003 May;71(5):381-4. [12769405]
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