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Types of Epithelial Tissue Diseases

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Instructor: Taormina Lepore

Taormina has taught advanced high school biology, is a science museum educator, and has a Master's degree in museum paleontology.

Learn about the different types of diseases of the epithelial tissue. Explore the characteristics and types of epithelial tissue and diseases like eczema, psoriasis, epithelial carcinoma, and severe asthma. Updated: 12/15/2021

Types of Epithelial Tissue

In the human body, there are several types of basic tissue. Muscle tissue, nervous tissue, connective tissue - each one serves a purpose within the body, through the transmission of messages, movement, and the protection of organs. The epithelial tissues of the body are the tissues that line the surfaces of our skin, our digestive organs, and our respiratory organs. These tissues are found anywhere in the body where a barrier is put up, and things can selectively pass across that barrier. From the dead surface skin epithelial cells to the absorbent epithelium of the interior of our lungs, epithelial tissue can take on many forms.

In order to better understand the main types of epithelial diseases, let's briefly recap the types of epithelial tissue:

  • Simple squamous is a single layer of cells, flat and often thin, allowing simple diffusion of materials. Located in the kidneys, blood vessels, and air sacs of the lungs.
  • Stratified squamous is more than one layer of cells, protecting the underlying tissue from abrasion. The tougher type, containing the protein keratin, is located in the dry upper layer of skin. The nonkeritanized type, meaning without the protein keratin, is located in the moist parts of the mouth, esophagus, vagina, urethra, and anus.
  • Simple cuboidal is a single layer of cells, cube-like in shape, allowing secretion and absorption. Located in the kidneys, ovaries, and various glands.
  • Stratified cuboidal is more than one layer of cells, cube-like in shape, allowing protection of glands. Located around the mammary, saliva, and sweat glands.
  • Simple columnar is a single layer of cells, tall and column-like, allowing absorption and secretion with the help of mucus and tiny hair-like cilia. Located in the digestive tract, glands, parts of the lungs such as the branching bronchi, and the uterus.
  • Stratified columnar is more than one layer of cells, tall and column-like, allowing protection and secretion. These are rare in the human body, located in the male urethra and associated with certain glands.
  • Pseudostratified columnar is a single layer of cells, varying in height, allowing secretion and movement of mucus. Located in the windpipe and upper respiratory tract, sperm ducts, and glands.
  • Transitional is more than one layer of cells, resembling stratified squamous and stratified cuboidal combined, allowing stretching and distending to make room for urine containment. Located in the urinary system, especially the bladder.

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Types of Epithelial Tissue Diseases

There are many types of epithelial tissue diseases, spreading across all the forms of epithelial tissue. Here are a few key diseases that are important to understand when discussing how disease affects epithelial tissue.

Eczema

First, let's look at eczema. Eczema, also known as dermatitis, is a disease that causes inflammation and irritation of the skin. In fact, that's what dermatitis means: derma means 'skin,' and -itis means 'inflammation.' This irritation and inflammation of the skin can take on many forms, including swelling, rashes, pustules, and itching. Common causes for eczema include allergies, changes in hormone levels, stress, or genetic predisposition to the disease.

While there is no cure for eczema, there are ways to treat it. Ointments and medicated salves can help sooth the symptoms, while prescription medications can help manage the dryness and irritation of the skin. Prevention is a best bet for eczema, including moisturizing the skin and avoiding irritants.

Eczema affects the stratified squamous epithelium of the skin, and the underlying blood vessels.

Psoriasis

Next, we'll look at psoriasis. Psoriasis is a disease that affects the epithelial cells of the skin, creating a red, scaly rash. Often psoriasis is associated with other diseases, such as heart disease and diabetes. Genetic factors can lead to a predisposition to psoriasis, though the disease is often brought on by environmental triggers. The stratified squamous epithelium cells sense stress hormones, infection, and the presence of certain medications like lithium, a depression drug. Injury to the skin in the form of sunburns or scratches can also trigger psoriasis; when injury causes a patch of red, itchy psoriasis, the phenomenon is known as the Koebner response.

Psoriasis affects the stratified squamous epithelium of the skin.

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