Skin Disorders in Elderly Adults
The ageing process can lead to a number of changes in the skin that can make it more vulnerable to dryness, itching, and a variety of skin disorders. This makes elderly adults more prone to skin disorders. These changes can include thinning of the skin, decreased oil production, decreased collagen production, and a decrease in the number of blood vessels in the skin.
Common skin disorders in elderly adults
Here are some of the common skin disorders in elderly adults:
Seborrheic keratosis is a harmless, non-cancerous growth that appears as warty, dark spots on the skin that can be itchy or irritated. While the exact cause of this condition is unknown, it is believed to be associated with genetics and exposure to the sun.
Actinic keratosis is a precancerous skin condition that results from exposure to the sun's UV rays. It appears as rough, scaly patches on the skin that can range in colour from pink to brown.
Basal cell carcinoma
Basal cell carcinoma is the most common type of skin cancer, typically caused by long term exposure to the sun. It appears as a waxy bump or brown patch on the skin that can bleed or become scaly.
Squamous cell carcinoma
Squamous cell carcinoma is the second most common type of skin cancer, also caused by sun exposure. It appears as a firm, red nodule or scaly patch on the skin that may bleed or become crusty.
Eczema is an inflammatory skin condition that is characterised by dry, itchy and inflamed skin that can become scaly or crusty. It is believed to be associated with genetics and environmental factors.
Psoriasis is a chronic autoimmune skin condition that causes skin cells to grow too quickly, resulting in redness, inflammation patches of thick, scaly skin.
Rosacea is a condition that causes redness, sensitivity, pimples and visible blood vessels on the face. It is believed to be associated with genetics and environmental triggers such as sun exposure, stress, and certain foods.
Psychological Impacts of Skin Disorders in Elderly Adults
Skin conditions can cause significant distress, not just physically, but also emotionally and socially.
- Lower self esteem: Skin disorders can make the elderly adult feel self-conscious and uncomfortable in their own skin. They can affect any part of the body, including the face, which can further exacerbate self-esteem and body image issues.
- Conscious when socialising: Skin disorders can make it difficult for elderly adults to socialise with others, leading to social isolation. They may feel embarrassed or ashamed to go out in public or interact with others.
- Stigma: Furthermore, skin conditions that are contagious can lead to social stigmatisation.
Risk factors for Skin Disorders in Elderly Adults
Several risk factors can contribute to skin disorders in elderly adults, including:
Prolonged and repeated exposure to sunlight is a significant risk factor for skin disorders in elderly adults. The ultraviolet radiation from the sun can damage the skin cells, leading to various skin conditions such as wrinkles, age spots, and even skin cancer.
Malnutrition or an imbalanced diet can have an adverse effect on skin health. A lack of essential nutrients like vitamins A, C, and E can cause dryness, roughness, and an increased risk of infections.
Elderly adults with chronic medical conditions like diabetes, liver disease, or kidney disease are at higher risk of developing skin disorders due to the weakened immune system and decreased blood flow to the skin.
Weakened immune system
As we age, our immune system becomes less effective in fighting off infections and diseases. This can increase the risk of skin disorders like shingles, fungal infections, and herpes simplex.
Certain medications, such as antibiotics, chemotherapy drugs for cancer treatment, and immunosuppressive drugs, can cause adverse side effects on the skin and increase the risk of developing skin disorders.
Some skin disorders are hereditary, and elderly adults with a family history of skin disorders are at higher risk of developing similar conditions.
Prevention of Skin Disorders in Elderly Adults
As the saying goes, "prevention is better than cure", taking preventative measures can go a long way in keeping the skin healthy and free from various skin conditions. Here are some ways to prevent skin disorders in elderly adults:
Following a simple skin care routine can go a long way in preventing skin disorders. This should include keeping the skin clean, moisturised, and well-hydrated. As we age, our skin becomes more fragile and prone to damage, making it more susceptible to various skin disorders. Therefore, it is essential to use mild, fragrance-free products that do not irritate the skin.
Sun damage is a leading cause of skin disorders in elderly adults. It is recommended to use a broad-spectrum sunscreen with an SPF of at least 30 (SPF-30), which protects the skin from both UVA and UVB rays. Wearing protective clothing such as hats and long-sleeved shirts can also help prevent sun damage.
Mindful towards allergies
Certain triggers, such as allergens, can cause or exacerbate skin disorders in elderly adults. Identifying and avoiding triggers that cause skin irritation or inflammation can help prevent the onset of skin disorders. This includes avoiding harsh soaps, detergents, and other irritants that can cause skin irritation.
Consuming a diet rich in vitamins and minerals, especially vitamin C and E, can help prevent skin damage and reduce the risk of skin disorders. Also foods such as berries, nuts, fish, and leafy greens are rich in antioxidants, which help protect the skin from damage.
Here is our guide to Create the best meal plan for Seniors.
Exercise and Healthy lifestyle
Regular physical exercise improves blood flow, which nourishes the skin and keeps it healthy. Healthy lifestyle habits, such as getting enough sleep, reducing stress, and avoiding smoking, can help maintain healthy skin.
Learn more on Physical Fitness and Exercise for Seniors.
Tips Self-Care for Skin
In addition to medical treatments, there are some home self-care tips that can help manage skin disorders in elderly adults. Here's what you need to know:
Moisturise: Keeping the skin moisturised is important for preventing and managing skin disorders. Using a good quality moisturiser regularly can help to lock in moisture and prevent dryness, cracking, and flaking. Natural ingredients such as aloe vera, coconut oil, and shea butter can be particularly beneficial.
Avoid irritants: Certain products such as harsh soaps, detergents, and perfumes can irritate the skin and exacerbate skin disorders. Switching to gentle, fragrance-free products can help to reduce irritation and inflammation.
Keep skin clean: Regular cleansing is important for maintaining healthy skin. However, excessive cleansing can strip the skin of its natural oils and cause dryness. Using a mild cleanser once or twice a day can help to keep the skin clean without drying it out.
Use cool compresses: Applying a cool compress can help to reduce itching and inflammation associated with certain skin disorders such as eczema and psoriasis. Simply soak a clean cloth in cool water, wring it out, and apply it to the affected area.
Use natural products: There are several natural remedies that can help to alleviate skin disorders. For instance, tea tree oil can help to reduce inflammation and redness. However, it is important to consult with a healthcare professional before using any natural remedies.
Protect skin from the sun: Exposure to the sun's harmful UV rays can worsen certain skin disorders and increase the risk of skin cancer. Using a broad-spectrum sunscreen with an SPF of 30 or higher can help to protect the skin from the sun's rays.
Skin disorders in elderly adults can have a significant impact on their overall well-being. These individuals are vulnerable to psychological and social impacts and preventing skin disorders in elderly adults requires a combination of good skin care, sun protection, proper nutrition, and healthy lifestyle habits. Furthermore, it is essential to raise awareness and promote education about skin disorders to reduce stigma and encourage early diagnosis and treatment.