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Desquamation (from Latin desquamare, meaning 'to scrape the scales off a fish'), also called skin peeling, is the shedding of the outermost membrane or layer of a tissue, such as the skin.

Desquamation (1).jpg
Peeling skin.
Classification and external resources
ICD-10 R23.4



Desquamation of skin on hands caused by scarlet fever infection
Desquamation of skin on finger-tips caused by scarlet fever

Normal, nonpathologic desquamation of the skin occurs when keratinocytes, after moving typically over about 14 days, are individually shed unnoticeably.[1] Obvious but nonpathologic visible desquamation can be observed after immersion of the skin in warm or hot water, encouraging the topmost layer of dead skin cells to shed and as such is a common result from the use of a hot shower or bath. In pathologic desquamation, such as that seen in X-linked ichthyosis, the stratum corneum becomes thicker (hyperkeratosis), imparting a "dry" or scaly appearance to the skin, and instead of detaching as single cells, corneocytes are shed in clusters, forming visible scales.[1] Desquamation of the epidermis may result from disease or injury of the skin. For example, once the rash of measles fades, there is desquamation. Skin peeling typically follows healing of a first degree burn or sunburn. Toxic shock syndrome, a potentially fatal immune system reaction to a bacterial infection such as Staphylococcus aureus,[2] can cause severe desquamation; so can mercury poisoning. Other serious skin diseases involving extreme desquamation include Stevens–Johnson syndrome and toxic epidermal necrolysis (TEN).[3] Radiation can cause dry or moist desquamation.[4]


Eye tissues including the conjunctiva and cornea may undergo pathological desquamation in diseases such as dry eye syndrome.[5] The anatomy of the human eye makes desquamation of the lens impossible.[6]

See alsoEdit


  1. ^ a b Jackson, Simon M.; Williams, Mary L.; Feingold, Kenneth R.; Elias, Peter M. (1993). "Pathobiology of the Stratum Corneum". The Western Journal of Medicine. 158 (3): 279–85. PMC 1311754 . PMID 8460510. 
  2. ^ Dinges, MM; Orwin, PM; Schlievert, PM (January 2000). "Exotoxins of Staphylococcus aureus". Clinical Microbiology Reviews. 13 (1): 16–34, table of contents. doi:10.1128/cmr.13.1.16-34.2000. PMC 88931 . PMID 10627489. 
  3. ^ Parillo, Steven J; Parillo, Catherine V. (2010-05-25). "Stevens-Johnson Syndrome". eMedicine. Medcape. Retrieved 2010-09-06. 
  4. ^ Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (2005-06-30). "Cutaneous Radiation Injury". CDC. Retrieved 2011-05-15. 
  5. ^ Gilbard, Jeffrey P. (November 1, 2003). "Dry Eye: Natural History, Diagnosis and Treatment". Wolters Kluwer Pharma Solutions. Retrieved February 3, 2012. 
  6. ^ Lynnerup, Niels; Kjeldsen, Henrik; Heegaard, Steffen; Jacobsen, Christina; Heinemeier, Jan (2008). Gazit, Ehud, ed. "Radiocarbon Dating of the Human Eye Lens Crystallines Reveal Proteins without Carbon Turnover throughout Life". PLoS ONE. 3 (1): e1529. doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0001529. PMC 2211393 . PMID 18231610.