Mature skin

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  • The U.S. Census Bureau's data projects that the 65-and-older age group is expected to double by 2030. In addition, the 85-and-older age group is the fastest-growing sector of the U.S. population.
  • Mature skin is physiologically different from young skin and needs to be treated in a specialized manner.
  • The incidence of skin problems tends to be higher in older adults than in other age groups.
  • There are certain skin conditions and tumors that generally only occur in older adults.

Changes

  • Aging causes changes at every level of the skin.
    • The epidermis, the skin's outer layer, does not recover from injury as rapidly. The outermost layer of the epidermis loses lipids (fat-like substances), making the skin drier.
    • The dermis, the skin's inner layer, loses collagen and elastic tissues that keep the skin plump and protect against injury.
    • The sweat glands are not as efficient at producing sweat, increasing the amount of time it takes to cool off the body on a hot day.

Common conditions

  • Skin cancer
    • Most often is caused by sun exposure during a person's 20s, 30s, and 40s.
    • Because mature skin has less protection from the sun than younger skin, wear a sunscreen daily with a Sun Protection Factor (SPF) of at least 30 that provides broad-spectrum protection from both ultraviolet A (UVA) and ultraviolet B (UVB) rays.
    • Older adults should do a full body skin exam twice a year. If a person is unable to conduct a skin exam, he or she should ask a dermatologist to perform one instead.
  • Shingles (herpes zoster)
    • Shingles is caused by a reactivation of the chicken pox virus and is characterized by a painful, blistering rash.
    • It's common for older adults to experience chronic nerve pain after any rashes and lesions are gone.
    • Shingles is hard to treat because it normally does not respond to common painkillers.
    • The herpes zoster vaccine, which is a boosted dose of the chickenpox vaccine given to children, was approved by the FDA in 2006 for use in adults age 60 and older.
  • Skin infections
    • An older adult's skin takes two to three times as long to heal as the average adult's skin.
    • Older adults should monitor their skin for infections because simple cuts can turn into chronic wounds.
    • Because skin in the lower extremities takes longer to heal, people who have diabetes should have their physician perform regular foot checks to prevent ulcers from developing.
    • To prevent infection, keep the wound moist by covering it with a bandage and using an antibiotic ointment.
    • Call a dermatologist if the wound becomes red, warm, or produces drainage. These can be signs of a possible infection.
  • Fungal infections
    • They are common in the groin area, feet, toes, and nails, and also can occur in other areas where skin rubs together.
    • Chronic fungal infections can lead to itchy skin and skin breaks.
    • Clipping toenails regularly and using protective barriers, such as zinc ointment, in areas where skin rubs together can help prevent fungal infections.
  • Dry, itchy skin
    • Skin is naturally drier in older adults, so full-body bathing isn't typically needed as often.
    • Those who like to bathe daily should avoid using very hot water and spending a long time in the water.
    • Older adults should use less abrasive soaps, such as a non-soap cleanser, and a moisturizer with lipids immediately after bathing.
  • Physiological changes in the skin also increase a person's likelihood they will experience conditions such as vascular problems, benign growths and tumors, and contact dermatitis, as they age.

Treatments

  • At least 85 percent of all mature patients are on some sort of medication, so it's recommended that all older adults bring a list of their current medications to each dermatologist appointment.
  • Treatments of simple disorders might have to be altered for mature patients.
    • This group has an increase in other medical conditions that will affect treatment options.
    • Therapies for other medical issues might cause further skin conditions.
  • Cosmetic procedures can remove sun damage and add plumpness in aging skin.

See your dermatologist for successful diagnosis and treatment of skin, hair, and nail conditions.

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