06.12 Integumentary Terminology

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Included In This Lesson



  1. Integumentary System
  1. Divisions
  2. Assessment
  3. Wounds
  4. Common Terms

Nursing Points


  1. Divisions of Skin
    1. Epidermis (top layer)
      1. Skin – derm/o or dermat/o
      2. Above – epi
    2. Dermis
    3. Subcutaneous
      1. Skin – cutane/o
      2. Under – sub-
    4. Hair – trich/o
    5. Nails – ungu/o
    6. Glands – aden/o
  2. Skin Assessment
    1. Itching – prurit/o (pruritis)
    2. Redness – erythema
    3. Thickening – keratosis
    4. White patches on mucous membranes – leukoplakia
    5. Sweating – diaphor/o
  3. Wounds
    1. Description
      1. Use colors
      2. Use depth and width
    2. Location
      1. Describe relative terms
        1. For example, distal or proximal to
    3. Measurements
      1. Include accurate measurements
  4. Common Terms
    1. Fat – adip/o
    2. Scaly – ichthy/o
    3. Hard, horny – kerat/o
    4. Fat – lip/o
    5. Black – melan/o
    6. Fungus – myc/o
    7. Nail – onych/o
    8. Pus – py/o
    9. Sebum (oil) – seb/o
    10. Scale like – squam/o
    11. Yellow – xanth/o


In this lesson, we’re going to talk about the medical terms that you would use with the integumentary system.

When we talked about the integumentary system, we want to look at the different layers. The top layer is called the epidermis, and the reason we call it the epidermis is because the term dermo means skin,  and Epi means above. So this is the outermost layer of the skin. The middle layer is called the dermis, and then subcutaneous literally means under the skin. Cutaneo refers to skin and sub means under. Anytime we’re dealing with hair we will use the term a Tricho, and unguo for nails.  Just like we’ve used with other lessons, glands are represented by the term Adeno.

When we’re talkin about skin assessment, there are lots of medical terms that don’t necessarily follow the rules in medical terminology, and they may have some other type of origin. But we’re going to focus on a few here that actually follow our rules for basic word structure. The term prurito actually means itching, so if a patient was itching they would have a condition known as pruritis or they could be pruritic. Erythema is another term that you’re going to see a lot when describing skin. Erythro is red, and -ema is a condition, so erythema is a redness of the skin seen here. Another turn that you may end up seeing as something called diaphoresis, which comes from the term diaphoro which means sweating. And the last one is something called leukoplakia, where leuko means white, and this patient seen in this picture has a condition where there are white patches on the mucous membranes. So leukoplakia describes those patches inside the mouth. There’s more information on  different types of skin conditions in the lessons on the integumentary system so I encourage you to check that out

Now as we examine the wound it’s really important that we do a couple of things with our medical terminology. First off we want to use descriptive colors and words that describe depth and width. So for this wound, I would say there is a mild hemorrhagic discharge, and it is a superficial wound or laceration. The next thing that we need to do is to describe a location and so we want to pay attention to our relative terms and our positions. So this one would be located on the left medial aspect of the distal leg. Finally, we would want to use measurements. This helps us to describe the degree or severity of some sort of wound. With this particular ruined I would take a measurement, and say that it’s so many centimeters long.

Now here are some other terms that you may run across that you can actually use to help describe a patient’s skin condition or skin lesion or something else related to their skin. Adipo and lipo both refer to Fat, so this could be a fat layer. Melano Means black, and you will see this with the term melanocytes. They are responsible for producing melanin or the pigment in our skin. Another turn that you may see is myco which refers to some sort of fungus. There’s also the term pyo which means pus. The best thing that you can do is to practice these terms so that you know what they mean in the future.

Okay so let’s recap. Medical terms with the integumentary layer focus on the epidermis, dermis, or subcutaneous layers. When you’re doing an assessment there are a variety of terms used to describe different conditions. Some follow basic medical terminology and some don’t. When you are describing your wounds, use the details to describe the location and the description of the wound. And just because a lot of these terms may be unfamiliar, it’s really important to practice them.

That’s it for our lesson on the integumentary system. Make sure you check out all the resources attached to this lesson. Now, go out and be your best self today, and as always, happy nursing!