Written by Nurse Susan
Aging causes a number of changes throughout the body, and the skin is no exception. When you get older, the skin tends to become thinner and more sensitive.
Keep reading to learn more about some of the most common skin conditions that affect seniors — and what you can do to prevent and treat them.
- Wrinkles and Movement Lines
Wrinkles are the most obvious sign of aging skin. The skin loses its flexibility after years of sun exposure. You may also notice movement lines — also known as laugh or worry lines — around the eyes and mouth.
You can’t remove wrinkles completely (at least without cosmetic surgery). But, you can reduce their appearance with products that contain tretinoin.
You can also try dry brushing, which helps smooth the skin and minimize wrinkles by exfoliating and improving blood flow.
- Varicose Veins
Varicose veins are the result of improperly functioning veins. When the valves of the veins don’t close all the way, blood pools and causes them to swell and twist. Varicose veins are typically not dangerous, but they can be painful.
Varicose veins are not entirely preventable — some people are genetically predisposed — but maintaining an active lifestyle and avoiding sitting with the legs crossed for long periods of time may keep them at bay.
If you’re already suffering from varicose veins, it helps to wear compression stockings to improve circulation and reduce their appearance. Dermatologists can also perform a variety of treatments for varicose veins, including sclerotherapy, endovenous thermal ablutions, and vein stripping.
- Dry Skin
Dry skin is another relatively harmless but still irritating condition that affects approximately 75 percent of seniors. Aging results in the loss of oil glands, which means that the skin is more likely to become dry, itchy, and cracked.
The dryness that comes with aging can’t be prevented, but there are many ways it can be treated. Some simple solutions include:
- Using soap that is specially formulated for dry skin
- Regularly using a high-quality body lotion
- Avoiding high water temperatures, which dry the skin out
- Increase water consumption
- Avoiding caffeine (it can cause itching)
- Using humidifiers and vaporizers for extra moisture
- Pressure Ulcers
For elderly people who spend many hours confined to a chair or bed, pressure ulcers — also known as bedsores — are a common, unpleasant occurrence.
Pressure ulcers occur when a limited amount of blood is sent to a particular area. This leads to cell death, then skin breakdown, and, eventually, the painful open wound that is recognized as a pressure ulcer.
Pressure ulcers are most often located on the tailbone, hips, shoulder blades, elbows, and heels.
To prevent pressure ulcers, those who care for bed or chair-limited seniors should turn them over every few hours and use barrier creams to prevent skin breakdown. They should also make sure that their mattress is not too firm. Gel and alternating air pressure mattresses help reduce the risk of pressure ulcers.
Proper wound care from a nurse or other wound specialist can help heal existing pressure ulcers, and massage may also be beneficial for improving circulation. This can help treat existing sores and prevent new ones.
- Skin Cancer
Finally, skin cancer is probably the most serious skin ailment that seniors face. While skin cancer can affect people of any age, seniors are particularly susceptible, in part because aging diminishes the skin’s ability to heal and protect itself.
To prevent skin cancer, seniors should take care to wear sunscreen before spending prolonged periods of time outdoors. They should also avoid going outside between the hours of 10 A.M. and 4 P.M., as this is considered the most UV-intense time of day.
Seniors should also be sure to check moles twice a year for the following signs:
- Changes in size, shape, and color
- Moles with irregular borders
- Moles with multiple colors
- Asymmetrical moles
- Moles that bleed, itch, or ooze
If you notice any of these symptoms, make an appointment with a dermatologist to rule out cancer. Many skin cancers are highly treatable, but they need to be caught early.
From wrinkles to pressure ulcers, age-related skin changes aren’t fun to deal with. However, many conditions are easy to prevent and treat. Keep these tips in mind so that your skin can stay happy and healthy.