Aging is a slow process which has its impact on the structures and the functions of the body with the passage of time. WHO has defined ‘elderly’ as those individuals more than 65 years of age. As we grow older, we find changes in our skin. These depend on the lifestyle, nutrition, habits such as smoking, and to certain extent heredity.
Skin Breakdown In Elderly
With growing age, the skin changes are apparent. These are probably caused due to exposure to the sun’s ultraviolet rays; they cause the elastic tissue underneath the skin to breakdown.This causes the skin to wrinkle, sag and stretch. Further loss of subcutaneous tissue or the fatty layer between the skin and the muscles, stress, facial movements and gravity are other factors affecting the skin. Most of the skin conditions in the elderly are minor and are of cosmetic origin. However there are few skin conditions that require medical attention as they are indicative of underlying disease.
Common Skin Conditions In Elderly
Here are some of the common skin conditions in elderly individuals:
- Actinic keratosis: it is a skin condition more common in fairer complexion individuals. The disease occurs as a result of prolonged exposure to the sun for a period of time. Many Americans are suffering from this type of keratosis. The lesion is red, or dark brown color on the exposed portion of the skin. As time passes, it forms crusts and scales which can be scraped. The lesion can be precancerous in origin, and therefore they are of great concern.
- Wrinkles are another common skin condition in elderly. It occurs as the skin elasticity is lost. Wrinkles appear early in those individuals who smoke as compared to non smokers.
- Dry and itchy skin: many elderly persons complain of itchy and dry skin. This is due to loss of oil glands which keeps the skin soft.
Skin Problems Due To Aging
Herpes zoster: it is a viral skin disease most often common skin problem in elderly individuals. The rash appears along the superficial nerve pathway underneath the skin. Further the rash turns into fluid filled blisters. Usually it takes a week for the lesions to disappear. The blisters burn and itch for few days, however in few elderly, the burning continues even after the lesions have subsided.
- Skin cancer: it is most common form of skin lesion in elderly individual.
- Bedsores: it is a type of an ulcer which develops due to pressure when an elderly lies on the bed for a prolonged period of time. The lesion is more common in elderly individuals who do not move on their own. Person suffering from diabetes is more prone to bedsore, because there is poor blood circulation and superficial neuropathy. Frequent change of position helps to prevent bedsores.