The Evolution of the Skin’s Role in Disease Prevention
The skin plays a vital role in external and internal health, yet its role in the body's overall defense has only recently been studied. The advancement of dermatology, its role concerning internal organs, and the creation of innovative skin analyzing devices have been transformational in aiding the prevention of life-threatening diseases and amputations. Let's briefly dig into the history of skin and why early detection of skin breakdown can illuminate healthcare providers to deeper underlying problems that, if found early on, can save millions of lives a year.
In early medical history, the skin was regarded as superficial, and its role in the overall health of humans held little relevance. In the span of human history, dermatology gained momentum in research and validity as a field. Skin is the first barrier of defense and a visceral reminder and warning of internal disruption of the circulatory or neurological nature.
Ancient physicians regarded the skin as superficial and of little use to understand internal organ health. In the Middle Ages, muscles, flesh, and internal organs were the main focus of medicine--skin existed merely as an external surface. Philosopher, Aristotle, and Physician Galen, saw the skin’s role as a “layer deprived of sensitivity” (Rene Touraine Foundation). It wasn't until the Renaissance that outer parts were seen as "a consequence of internal ones." Andreas Van Wesel, a Flamish doctor, analyzed the skin and put forth observations that challenged his predecessors; skin is the "first barrier during dissection,” has substance and layers, and this merits its own research (Dermatology Times).
In the late 18th century, the foundation of clinical dermatology is credited to two English doctors: Robert Wilan and Thomas Bateman. They standardized dermatological practices by implementing a taxonomic and anatomical classification of skin diseases rather than classification by appearance. The 19th century is the era of Jean-Louis Marc Alibert, a French pioneer in dermatology. He published, "Descriptions des maladies de la peau" where he emphasized a patient-centric approach. A patient-centric approach means observing and understanding the patient's perception of the disease and how it impacts their daily functions. This approach is at the core of dermatology and healthcare, even today. In addition to anatomy and diagnosis, healthcare is an examination of how public health, politics, and psychology intersect; all of these industries affect a patient’s overall health.
The rise of new treatment methods and diagnosis today is centered around patient care, which involves alleviating the underlying condition or sickness while addressing areas of their life that could contribute or exacerbate their situation. Patient-centered care is and should continue to be part of medical device innovation. A truly 360° approach to patient care prioritizes inclusivity and considers the patient's lifestyle, physical, and mental state when devising methods of treatment and diagnosis.
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