As we get older our skin loses some of its elasticity and is also less able to repair itself from damage.
How your skin ages throughout life is affected by several things including diet, exposure to the sun, lifestyle, genetic factors and personal habits, e.g. smoking. Obesity can also be a factor too.
Whilst many of us will only have an increase in wrinkles to worry about, there are a number of skin conditions, more commonly found amongst the elderly, which can cause health concerns.
Some elderly people suffer from an increase in brown spots which resemble freckles. They are usually related to the amount of exposure the person has had to sunlight throughout their life and the level to which they have taken care of their skin in relation to the sun. Usually, they are harmless but if they change shape and appear to become thicker and bigger or develop a crust, it’s important that you get them checked out by a GP to exclude the possibility of skin cancer. They can, however, be removed by electro surgery or by freezing them.
In addition to your skin becoming thinner, blood vessels are affected to as you get older. These can result in bruising which is referred to as senile purpura and is more often associated with your arms. It’s important to realise that, although the skin heals more slowly following a bruising injury, this condition does not mean that you have any kind of bleeding disorder.
Because the elderly are more likely to suffer with dry and cracked skin, it’s far easier for bacteria to enter any exposed areas and cause infection. Scabies, which causes unpleasant itching, is transmitted by mites. It can spread quite rapidly in areas where there are a lot of people living in close proximity to each other which is obviously a concern for care homes. Lotions are applied which will kill the mites but it’s quite common for the itching sensation to remain for a couple of weeks as our natural body’s defence mechanisms breakdown and get rid of what’s left of the mites inside our body but the unpleasant itchy feeling can be reduced with antihistamines.
Leg Ulcers and Pressure Ulcers (bed sores)
Leg ulcers occur in the elderly due to venous hypertension and reduced arterial circulation which is all related to the veins and blood circulation. The legs can often swell up and either become pale or can turn a reddish-brown colour and this condition can be extremely painful and can have an impact upon mobility and sleep disturbance which, in turn, can cause a reduction in energy levels. For venous hypertension, muscle pumps can be used to reduce the blood pressure and changes in lifestyle can prevent the problem as increased mobility, stopping smoking, eating a nutritious diet and weight control all help.
Pressure ulcers, commonly referred to as bed sores are caused by unrelieved pressure to the skin and tissue. People who are confined to bed or chair rest for long periods are most likely to suffer with these but there are many relief products available and an increase in awareness of how to prevent them from occurring in the first place.
None of us are immune to the ageing process. However, we can all help to reduce the chances of us suffering from the many problems associated with our skin if we take some preventative action when we are younger. This includes our attitudes to the sun and taking steps to minimise the risks posed by it, using moisturising creams, eating a balanced diet and keeping our bodies hydrated with plenty of water. We should also refrain from smoking and keep active, even if it’s only by undertaking a few stretching exercises each day.
Finally, if you are concerned by any freckles, moles or other areas of your skin which you feel have changed in appearance, don’t hesitate to see the doctor just to be on the safe side.