Normal, nonpathologic desquamation of the skin occurs when keratinocytes, after moving apically over about 14 days, are individually shed unnoticeably. In pathologic desquamation, such as that seen in X-linked ichthyosis, the stratum corneum becomes thicker (hyperkeratosis), imparting a "dry" or scaly appearance to the skin, and instead of detaching as single cells, corneocytes are shed in clusters, forming visible scales. Desquamation of the epidermis may result from disease or injury of the skin. For example, once the rash of measles fades, there is desquamation. Skin peeling typically follows healing of a first degree burn or sunburn. Toxic shock syndrome, a potentially fatal immune system reaction to a bacterial infection, causes severe desquamation; so can mercury poisoning. A bacteria example is the Staphylococcus aureus Other serious skin diseases involving extreme desquamation include Stevens–Johnson syndrome and toxic epidermal necrolysis (TEN). Radiation can cause dry or moist desquamation.
Eye tissues including the conjunctiva and cornea may undergo pathological desquamation in diseases such as dry eye syndrome. The anatomy of the human eye makes desquamation of the lens impossible.
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