Common Skin Conditions in Seniors: Symptoms and Treatment
Skin conditions are so common among seniors that they're often mistaken for age-related changes in the skin. While some of these conditions are completely normal, others can be signs of an underlying health problem. The best way to determine which type of skin condition you or your loved one is dealing with is to see a dermatologist and get tested for certain diseases that affect older adults. Below are some of the most common skin conditions in seniors and how best to treat them.
Eczema is a common condition that causes patchy, itchy skin. It can affect people of any age, but it's more likely to be severe and persistent in seniors.
Eczema is often triggered by irritation or an allergic reaction. Your doctor may refer to these as atopic eczema or contact dermatitis. There are two types of eczema — simplex (or atopic) and seborrheic — with different causes and treatments.
Shingles are a viral infection that causes a painful rash. It occurs when the varicella-zoster virus (VZV) reactivates in your body, usually when you are over 50 years old or have another condition that weakens your immune system.
Shingles aren't contagious until after the blisters appear on your skin. If you suspect you have shingles, see a doctor right away so they can prescribe antiviral medication that may shorten the length of time symptoms last and reduce their severity.
Psoriasis is a chronic skin condition that causes red, scaly patches to appear on the skin. The exact cause of psoriasis isn't known, but it's believed to be due to genetics and an overactive immune system.
The symptoms of psoriasis include raised patches of skin covered with silvery scales, usually on elbows and knees; redness or scaling in groups or lines; dryness; itching; and mild swelling at times.
Itching can be intense when you first develop psoriasis as your body tries to remove dead cells from underneath the thick scales covering your skin. But you can manage itching by using moisturizers or ointments regularly.
You'll want to talk with your doctor about managing this condition if it becomes severe enough to affect your everyday activities, such as showering or working out.
Sun damage is also one of the most common skin conditions in seniors. The sun's ultraviolet radiation damages the skin and causes wrinkles and age spots. Sun exposure also results in skin dryness, redness, or itching. This can be due to photoaging (sun damage) or photodermatitis (skin inflammation).
Damage from ultraviolet rays accumulates over time as long-term exposure occurs by spending too much time in the sun without adequate protection from sunscreen or other protective measures like staying in the shade or wearing protective clothing.
Rashes are very common in seniors. Several factors can cause them, including:
Skin conditions such as eczema
Allergic reactions to medications or food
Infections, such as herpes simplex or ringworm
It is important that you alert your doctor if you see a rash developing on your parent. If the rash does not resolve within one week, it may be an indication of a serious condition that requires treatment. Because rashes can be contagious and painful, they can affect your loved one's quality of life. If the rash is itchy, this discomfort may cause your senior parent to scratch excessively, leading to further irritation and infection.
When it comes to skin conditions, seniors can be more susceptible than other age groups. Unfortunately, many older people don't realize that they have an issue until it gets too late and their condition progresses into something worse.
It is important for seniors to keep up with their regular checkups and quality home care to detect any potential problems early on.
The CDPAP program can help take the pressure off families and help them care for their loved ones. CDPAP is a New York State Medicaid Program in which a consumer can choose a caregiver to help with their daily living activities. This caregiver is compensated through a fiscal intermediary such as Elite Choice. Learn more about Elite Choice and the CDPAP program by calling us at 718.925.2900.
Written by: Leah Ganz
Leah Ganz, RN, BSN is the Director of Patient Services at Elite Home Health Care. She has an extensive background in homecare and previously worked in various specialties including pediatrics, pain management and internal medicine. She oversees all patient services across Elite's departments.