Today marks the the start of Talkhealth’s week long clinic on skin problems. The skin is an amazing organ. The largest in the human body, providing a number of functions including protection from infection and water loss, insulation and temperature regulation, production of vitamin D , sensation to touch , temperature and pain and the ability to repair . In our society healthy skin tends to be associated with good general health. Conversely we tend to be very negative in our attitude towards people with skin problems.

People with light skin tend to want to look darker and hence the number of people who sunbathe or use other tanning methods. In certain societies people with darker skin strive to make their skin lighter using chemicals. Both of these practices are potentially extremely harmful.

In general terms beauty can be related to symmetry . The more symmetrical a person appears the more attractive they are. In addition there are characteristics associated with sexuality which make an individual appear more attractive. For example in a man a prominent brow and facial hair are seen in many societies as  attractive.  In a woman large lips, large eyes and a  large forehead and a small chin have the same effect.  Many people go to great lengths to enhance these features using cosmetic methods, ranging from the temporary to the surgical. In many societies appearances are  further enhanced by the use of tattoos or piercings.  Often these methods are an attempt to be part of a “tribe” and to seek acceptance from the group.

It is interesting that all of these attempts to make one more sexually attractive or socially acceptable carry great health risks. There is no doubting the association of sunbathing and sun beds with melanoma.  Tattoos  and piercings are associated with infection, including hepatitus B and HIV.  Cosmetic surgery again carries a risk of infection and possibly even death .Many of these procedures are carried out by poorly trained or even unqualified individuals.

It would seem we are very shallow to put so much emphasis on appearance. Equally how lacking we are as a society when it comes to accepting, supporting and helping sufferers of skin disease. Many skin problems are preventable, most can be treated or at least improved and for those individuals who need psychological help we must do more. Many organisations exist to offer support for various skin problems and I am pleased to see the British Society of Dermatologists also  offer information and online support.

I hope this weeks clinic is interesting and informative.


Dr Roger Goulds

Dr Roger Goulds has over 30 years experience as a General Practitioner in both the NHS and private sector. He has also worked in health screening and is very keen on early diagnosis and disease prevention. He has a special interest in sports and musculoskeletal medicine and works with professional sports men and women.

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