Among the eleven major organ systems of our body, the integumentary system is considered as the most visible, largest and one of the most complex organ system. It comprises of the hair, nails, skin, oil and sweat glands.
Its primary function is to protect the body from outside harmful substances like chemicals, UV rays and bacteria. The system also helps in regulating the body temperature and serves as a minor excretory organ (through sweat glands).
The term integumentary originally came from the Latin word integumentum which means “cover” or “enclosure”. In the human body system, integumentary goes beyond the outer covering as it also nourishes, insulates and cushions the delicate internal organs.
The integumentary system is vital to one’s life as it protects the body from outside forces that may harm it. Without it, a person can easily die because of loss of defense.
The biggest and most important part of integumentary system is the skin. It is the largest and heaviest organ in the body which constitutes 7 percent of body weight in an average. It has different thickness depending on the location. The thick skin is in the palms and soles of the feet. The other areas are then considered as thin skins.
Generally, the skin is made up of three layers with different functions: epidermis, dermis and subcutaneous layer. Epidermis is the outermost layer of the skin; it is waterproof because of the dead and keratinized cells that it is made up of. It consists of four more layers; each has different functions in protecting the body.
The next layer is the dermis located underneath epidermis. This is where sweat glands and hair roots are found along with other complex structures. The last layer is the subcutaneous layer where the adipose tissues are found. Its main function is to cushion and insulate the internal organs and maintains body temperature.
Aside from the main organ of the integumentary system, it also has accessory structures that include: nails, hair and sweat glands. Nails are found at the ends of fingers and toes and are produced by nail follicles. The nail root is found near the bone of the fingertips.
Hairs, on the other hand are found at almost every part of the human body except for the lips, palms, soles and some parts of outer. Just like nails, hair comes from hair follicle that is found deep in the dermis. Once the hair grows out of the scalp or skin, it is called a hair shaft.
Hair shafts differ in size, shape and color which explain why people have different hair colors and straight or curly hair. Both hair and nails are made up of keratin that coats and stiffens them as they grow out. However, nails are more keratinized than hair.
The last accessory is sweat glands. These are found in any body part. The two types are eccrine and apocrine sweat glands. Both are described as coiled tubes found in the dermis although found in different areas. Sweat glands are responsible in releasing wastes materials in the body in the form of water.
Knowing how integumentary system works to protect our body from disease like psoriasis, warts, dermatitis and alopecia areata, it is but important to know the ways on how we can protect them back. When a person grows old, his skin becomes dry, scaly and starts losing the nutrients.
We really can’t do anything to stop aging, but there are ways where you can delay it and protect your skin. Wear sunscreens, sunblocks and wear hats or protective clothing. Aside from that, eat healthy foods and a routine exercises to keep your blood flow at its peak and send nutrients to your organs. Cleanse your skin and use gentle lotions, soaps and moisturizer.