Circulation & Skin Integrity: Importance, Risk Factors & Examples

Instructor: Adrianne Baron

Adrianne has taught high school and college biology and has a master's degree in cancer biology.

We are going to take a look at the importance of skin integrity and how circulation plays a key role in maintaining the integrity of the skin. We will also cover risk factors and discuss how they put a person at risk.

Skin Integrity

Our bodies are made with a built-in security system. We have security inside of our bodies in the form of our immune system and outside in the form of our skin. One of the main functions of the skin is to protect everything that's inside of our body. Considering this function, it's important for our skin to remain intact at all times. The overall health of our skin is called skin integrity.

Skin is composed of layers and functions to protect the inside of the body
simple skin layers

We want to have good skin integrity so it can protect our bodies the way it should. Breaks or any other damage to the skin exposes us to the bacteria, viruses, and other microbes surrounding us. Once they have access to our bodies, it's just a matter of time before we develop diseases on and in our bodies.


Blood circulation refers to the flow of blood through our bodies. Blood is needed by every part of our bodies, including the skin on the surface of our bodies. There are numerous blood vessels that work to deliver blood to our skin. Blood flowing towards our skin brings oxygen and other nutrients that the skin needs to remain healthy. As it continues its circulation, the blood also removes carbon dioxide and wastes that the skin doesn't need.

Circulating blood also delivers proteins and cells that the skin needs to repair itself when it becomes damaged. This is important, since the skin needs to be repaired quickly when there's a break. The quicker the skin is repaired and returned to health, the less likely disease development becomes.

Poor Circulation and Skin Integrity

Now that we know why circulation and skin integrity are important, let's look at what can happen if good circulation is not maintained. Poor circulation decreases the normal strength, elasticity, and flexibility of the skin. Once that happens, our skin is more prone to break in one way or another.

Poor circulation can lead to skin wounds and lesions. The skin is normally durable enough to handle some amount of pressure from blunt and even sharp objects. This changes when the skin does not have proper circulation. It becomes thinner, and skin wounds form more easily from sharp and blunt objects pressing against the skin.

The skin over bony areas of the body is especially prone to the formation of skin wounds when circulation is poor. When blood circulation is completely cut off or greatly decreased over these areas, then decubitus ulcers, also called bed sores, commonly form. With bed sores, prolonged pressure on the skin closes off the oxygen supply, resulting in skin tissue death.

Skin infections are another strong possibility when circulation is poor. Since the skin breaks more easily and has more trouble repairing itself, bacteria can infiltrate the layers of the skin whenever it breaks and cause infections. The lack of proper circulation to the skin also means that immune system cells and proteins, which would normally help prevent skin infections, are missing or present in smaller than effective numbers.

Risk Factors

You probably want to know what risk factors you or someone you're caring for may have for poor circulation and compromised skin integrity. Anything that decreases circulation or adds harmful substances to the surface of the skin is considered a risk factor.

If you've experienced any type of physical trauma, then there's a good chance your skin was broken in one or more locations. This could be an external physical trauma, such as a burn, cut, scrape, gunshot, or stab, that happened directly to the skin. However, some internal physical traumas can also interfere with circulation, increasing the likelihood that the skin will break. For instance, you may have been in a car accident and suffered a head trauma, which interferes with your brain telling your body how to circulate blood.

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