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Medical Interpreting: The Integumentary System

As we move through the systems, you’ll start to see how they fit together like puzzle pieces. This is one of the most important things to keep in mind as a medical interpreter. When you can see the bodily systems in a holistic way, you can anticipate medical vocabulary the doctor might use. This is useful for both pre-study and for lowering the register during assignments.

The next modules we are going to talking about correspond to each bodily system.

  • Respiratory System
  • Muscular System
  • Skeletal System
  • Circulatory System
  • Gastrointestinal System
  • Integumentary System
  • Nervous System
  • Inmune System
  • Most Common Scans

The Integumentary system, also known as the skin system, is one of the most common terminology groups you’ll encounter. Dermatologist appointments are common, whether for less-severe maladies or cancer screenings. In this installment of our Medical Interpreting series, we’ll dive into the skin and prepare you for these assignments.

Medical Interpreting: The Integumentary System

An Overview of the Integumentary System

The integumentary system comprises the skin and related appendages, like hair and nails. It has a variety of functions. These include protecting the body from damage, and excreting wastes, regulating body temperature. The skin also provides for vitamin D synthesis and acts as an attachment site for sensory receptors. These receptors detect pain, sensation, pressure, and temperature.

The Structure of Skin

Skin is the largest organ of the human body, accounting for 12-15% of total body weight. It’s composed of two major layers: the superficial epidermis and deeper dermis. These, in turn, are made up of smaller layers to form the full structure.

  1. Epidermis: The epidermis is the layer of skin that you see when you look at someone. It’s composed of 4-5 layers of epithelial cells and is avascular. This means that there are no blood vessels that reach into it. Epithelial cells in the top layers (all the layers before the bottom layer of the Epidermis) are keratinocytes. Keratinocytes manufacture and store keratin. Keratin is the fibrous protein that gives skin, hair, and nails its hardness and water resistance. The skin cells in the epidermis are constantly being sloughed off and replaced by deeper cells. These cells are, in turn, regenerated in the deeper layers and pushed up.
  2. Papillary Region: The Papillary region is the first layer of the dermis. It’s composed of loose connective tissue and is named for its fingerlike projections (the papillae). The papillae interlock with the bumps in the lowest layer of the epidermis to form a stronger connection. In the fingers, palms, soles, and toes, the papillae also project the ridges adopted by the epidermis. The epidermal ridges form in patterns that are visible on the surface of the skin–fingerprints.
  3. Reticular Region: The reticular region is located below the papillary region and is the thickest layer. It’s composed of dense, irregular connective tissue. It holds the roots of hairs, sebaceous (oil) glands, sweat glands, receptors, nail bases, and blood vessels. Tattoo ink and stretch marks are also held in the reticular region.
  4. Hypodermis: This is also known as the subcutaneous tissue. Thee hypodermis isn’t technically a part of the skin but attaches the skin to underlying bone and muscle. It also supplies the skin with blood vessels and nerves. The Hypodermis is composed of connective tissue, elastin, and adipose tissue (fat). The fat serves as padding and insulation for the body.

Common Maladies and Diseases of the Integumentary System

Dermatologists are the doctors responsible for handling maladies, diseases, and injuries that affect the skin. They handle everything from acne to skin cancer and are vital health professionals. As dermatology appointments are quite common, you’ll likely encounter some of these maladies in your career as an interpreter.

  • Acne: Acne occurs when the passageways that connect the skin’s pores to the oil glands become clogged. Acne can occur anywhere on the body and is frequently seen on the face, neck, shoulders, chest, back, and buttocks. The most common forms are whiteheads and blackheads. More severe forms of acne include nodular and cystic acne. Treatment includes topical creams, steroid injections, and occasional minor surgery to remove cysts.
  • Cold Sores: Cold sores are red, fluid-filled blisters that generally form around the mouth. They’re caused by a virus known as herpes simplex and are highly contagious through skin to skin contact. While there’s no cure for cold sores, they can be treated fairly easy with over-the-counter creams and antiviral ointments.
  • Contact Dermatitis: Contact Dermatitis appears hours to days after contact with an allergen. It’s distinct from other forms of dermatitis. There are clear edges to the rash which correspond to where the allergen came in contact with the skin. Contact Dermatitis usually clears on its own. It can be helped with hydrocortisone cream and antihistamine pills.
  • Eczema: Eczema is characterized by red, itchy rashes and dry skin. It’s categorized into three types. Atopic dermatitis is genetic, most common, and typically forms in the crux of the elbows and behind the knees. Allergic contact dermatitis occurs when the rash appears after contact with environmental factors such as jewelry, cosmetics, and fragrances. Nummular dermatitis presents as red and flaky coin-shaped patches, due to dry skin. Eczema is most often treated with corticosteroids and moisturizing creams.
  • Psoriasis: Psoriasis is a skin condition that causes buildup of excess skin tissue with a red, thick, scaly appearance. It usually first appears on the elbows and knees but can spread to other areas of the body.
  • Rosacea: Rosacea is characterized by facial redness, small bumps, skin sensitivity, skin flushing, and skin dryness. It’s subtyped into four groups. Subtype one (ETR) is associated with facial flushing, redness, and visible blood vessels. Subtype two (papulopustular) is associated by acne-like breakouts. Subtype three (rhinophyma) is rare and involves a thickening of skin on the nose. Subtype four (ocular) is rosacea centered around the eye area. There are no known cures for rosacea. However, a doctor can help create a treatment plan based around eliminating flare-ups.
  • Seborrheic Dermatitis: Also known as cradle cap, seborrheic dermatitis mostly affects babies up to six months old. It presents as an oily, crusty, flaky patch on the scalp. It usually clears on its own as the child grows and is occasionally seen again during puberty.
  • Skin cancer: Skin cancer is the most common cancer in the United States. Basal and Squamous cell carcinoma are the most common. However, 75% of skin-cancer-related deaths occur due to melanoma. Skin cancer is most commonly treated by excising the affected area and occasionally combining the excision with chemotherapy.

Medical Terminology for Interpreters: An eLearning Course by Global Arena

Are you trying to learn more about anatomy, physiology, and medical terminology? Are you pressed for time and unable to take a regularly scheduled lecture course? Global Arena’s eLearning course, Medical Terminology for Interpreters, gives foundational medical knowledge for all interpreting skill levels. It provides a basic overview of common providers, appointments, scans, procedures, and the bodily systems. You can complete it at your own pace, and it requires no downloads. You can log into your account from any device and pick up where you left off.

The course is timed for three hours and includes a mix of interactive, informative, and review slides. Upon successful completion of all reviews, you’ll receive a Certificate of Course Completion worth three CEUs. The course meets CCHI and NBCMI standards for interpreter training and counts towards your credit hours for exam pre-requisites. You’ll also receive our Medical Terminology glossary, complete with spaces to add vocabulary in your target language. The course is updated regularly, and registration includes lifetime access to all new information and materials. Click the link to learn more and sign up today!

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