Integumentary System Essay

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FUNCTIONS The integumentary system is essential to the body's homeostasis, or ability to maintain the internal balance of its functions regardless of outside conditions. The system works to protect underlying tissues and organs from infections and injury. It also prevents the loss of body fluids. Receiving about one-third of the blood pumped from the heart every minute, the skin and its glands help maintain normal body temperature. The system also acts as a mini-excretory system, secreting salts, water, and wastes in the form of sweat. Cells in the skin utilize sunlight to create vitamin D, which is necessary for normal bone growth and function. Finally, the skin contains sensory receptors or specialized nerve endings that allow an individual to "feel" sensations such as touch, pain, pressure, and temperature. Protection The outermost epidermal layer of the skin is a barrier between the internal environment of the body and the external world. Keratin, in abundance in this outer layer, waterproofs the body. Without it, handling household chemicals, swimming in a pool, or taking a shower (a necessary everyday activity) would be disastrous to the underlying cells of the body. Not only does keratin keep water out, it also keeps water in. Excessive evaporation or loss of body fluids would result in dehydration and eventual death. Body temperature The heat-regulating functions of the body are extremely important. If the internal temperature varies more than a few degrees from normal, life-threatening changes take place in the body. Eccrine glands play an important part in maintaining normal body temperature. When the temperature of the body rises due to physical exercise or environmental conditions, the hypothalamus (region of the brain containing many control centers for body functions and emotions) sends signals to the eccrine glands to secrete sweat. When sweat
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