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The Science of Wound Healing – How the Integumentary System Repairs Damage

Understanding the Integumentary System

The integumentary system is the outermost layer of the body made up of your skin, nails, nerves, hair, and glands. The primary function of the integumentary system is to protect the insides of our body from the various elements of the environment including bacteria, pollution, etc. The integumentary system also helps regulate body temperature, get rid of the waste products, synthesis of vitamin D, retain bodily fluids, and also help in wound healing.(1234)

The Science of Wound Healing - How the Integumentary System Repairs Damage

The largest organ of the body, the skin, is one of the most important components of the integumentary system that serves multiple functions, including:

  • Protection: Hair and skin act as a barrier against harmful substances, temperature extremes, and ultraviolet (UV) radiation from the sun.(5)
  • Sensation: The skin contains nerve endings that help in the detection of pain, heat, cold, pressure, and touch.(6)
  • Regulation of temperature: The skin is able to sweat and widen the blood vessels in order to regulate the body temperature.(7)
  • Excretion of waste: The skin also helps get rid of waste through the process of sweating.(8)
  • Production of vitamin D: When the skin is exposed to UV light from the sun, it helps produce vitamin D, which is necessary for bone health.(9)

The skin is the body’s first line of defense against infections caused by pathogens as it is a physical barrier that contains many elements of the adaptive and innate immune systems. Due to this, skin also has an important role to play in wound healing. This is why the integumentary systems play an essential role in wound healing.

Wound Healing and the Integumentary System

Wound healing is an essential biologic process of the integumentary system that carries out repairs throughout the body. When the body goes through a trauma that results in an injury, it is the integumentary system that carries out the process of wound healing through the stages of inflammation, proliferation, and remodeling or maturation. Each of these stages has unique cellular as well as substance constituents without which the process of wound healing cannot progress.

It is important to realize that wound healing typically refers to the healing of the skin and not other types of injury in the body. The process of wound healing starts immediately after you suffer an injury to the epidermal layer of the skin, and the entire process may even take years to finish. The dynamic process of wound healing includes extremely organized cellular, molecular, and humoral mechanisms that complete the work through the overlapping stages described above. If there is any kind of disruption in the process, it can lead to abnormal or incomplete wound healing.(1011)

There are two main types of wounds. One is an open wound, where there is a break in the skin, and the other is a closed wound where the skin remains intact. Both can have a different healing process. A bruise is an example of a closed wound.

Immediately following any type of injury, the blood vessels begin to constrict and blood clots start to form to stop the bleeding. Once the bleeding has been stopped, the first stage of wound healing known as the inflammatory stage begins with the integumentary system. In the inflammatory stage of wound healing, the body has already begun to heal itself and get rid of any microbes that might have entered through the wound. The process of the wound getting closed by clotting is sometimes also known as the hemostasis phase.(1213)

Following this, the second phase known as the proliferative stage begins. In this, the blood flow increases and there are visible signs of inflammation such as pain, swelling, warmth, and redness in the area of the wound. In the proliferative stage, the cells start to divide rapidly to increase their numbers and repair the damage caused by the wound. A type of structural protein known as collagen is also laid out to strengthen the tissues.

In the last phase of wound healing, known as the maturation stage, the collagen starts to become more stronger and organized, the wound also matures, and eventually a scar forms at the site of the wound.

Other Factors Contributing to Wound Healing

In order for the integumentary system to properly promote wound healing, there are a few factors that play an important role. Firstly, there should a good blood flow to the area of the injury in order to maintain a steady supply of oxygen and nutrients to the cells in that area. Proper hydration and nutrition are also necessary. Protein, especially, is essential for the building of collagen. This is why you should have a good intake of protein-rich foods in order for your wounds to heal properly.

The last factor is to keep the site safe from infection. It is common knowledge that if your wound gets infected, it is not only going to take a longer time to heal, but it may also lead to other complications.

Factors like advanced age, diabetes, malnourishment, and low or poor blood flow can also slow down or prolong the process of wound healing. There can even be certain complications during the wound-healing process wherein the wound gets contaminated by a pathogen and becomes infected.(141516) Signs of infection that you should watch out for include:

  • Redness
  • Foul odor
  • Increasing intensity of pain
  • Swelling
  • Warmth


Made up of the skin, nails, hair, and glands, the integumentary system plays a crucial role in the protection of the body and wound healing. This bodily system works to keep the body safe from harm and maintain homeostasis by working together with other bodily systems. The skin, which is the largest organ in the body, is one of the most important organs involved in the process of wound healing. Wound healing typically begins with the skin itself. There are several mechanisms of the integumentary system that are involved in the process of wound healing as well as many external factors that affect how quickly and properly a wound heals. It is important to take proper care when you get a wound in order to prevent an infection. If a wound gets infected, it will prolong the healing time and may also lead to other complications.


  1. Mauldin, E.A. and Peters-Kennedy, J., 2016. Integumentary system. Jubb, Kennedy & Palmer’s Pathology of Domestic Animals: Volume 1, p.509.
  2. Elliott, D.G., 2000. Integumentary system. In The laboratory fish (pp. 271-306). Academic Press.
  3. Rawles, M.E. and Marshall, A.J., 1960. The integumentary system. Biology and comparative physiology of birds, 1, pp.189-240.
  4. Lund, C.H. and Kuller, J.M., 2013. Integumentary system. Comprehensive neonatal nursing care, 5, pp.299-333.
  5. McLafferty, E., Hendry, C. and Farley, A., 2012. The integumentary system: anatomy, physiology and function of skin. Nursing Standard (through 2013), 27(3), p.35.
  6. Kim, J.Y. and Dao, H., 2021. Physiology, Integument. In StatPearls [Internet]. StatPearls Publishing.
  7. Nadel, E.R., Bullard, R.W. and Stolwijk, J.A., 1971. Importance of skin temperature in the regulation of sweating. Journal of applied physiology, 31(1), pp.80-87.
  8. Baker, L.B., 2019. Physiology of sweat gland function: The roles of sweating and sweat composition in human health. Temperature, 6(3), pp.211-259.
  9. Holick, M.F., Chen, T.C., Lu, Z. and Sauter, E., 2007. Vitamin D and skin physiology: AD‐lightful story. Journal of Bone and Mineral Research, 22(S2), pp.V28-V33.
  10. Velnar, T., Bailey, T. and Smrkolj, V., 2009. The wound healing process: an overview of the cellular and molecular mechanisms. Journal of international medical research, 37(5), pp.1528-1542.
  11. Flynn, M.E. and Rovee, D.T., 1982. Wound healing mechanisms. The American Journal of Nursing, 82(10), pp.1544-1549.
  12. Gonzalez, A.C.D.O., Costa, T.F., Andrade, Z.D.A. and Medrado, A.R.A.P., 2016. Wound healing-A literature review. Anais brasileiros de dermatologia, 91, pp.614-620.
  13. Xu, Z., Liang, B., Tian, J. and Wu, J., 2021. Anti-inflammation biomaterial platforms for chronic wound healing. Biomaterials Science, 9(12), pp.4388-4409.
  14. Edwards, R. and Harding, K.G., 2004. Bacteria and wound healing. Current opinion in infectious diseases, 17(2), pp.91-96.
  15. Gottrup, F., 2004. Oxygen in wound healing and infection. World journal of surgery, 28(3), pp.312-315.
  16. Robson, M.C., Stenberg, B.D. and Heggers, J.P., 1990. Wound healing alterations caused by infection. Clinics in plastic surgery, 17(3), pp.485-492.
Team PainAssist
Team PainAssist
Written, Edited or Reviewed By: Team PainAssist, Pain Assist Inc. This article does not provide medical advice. See disclaimer
Last Modified On:February 2, 2023

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