Thin Skin in the Elderly
As people age, the skin becomes more prone to thinning as well as other skin conditions, such as liver spots, bruising and slow-healing cuts. Aging is a fact of life; understanding how thin skin relates to other skin conditions prevalent among the elderly can help to slow the effects of time and relieve certain conditions when they do occur.
Thin skin is more vulnerable to the growth of lentigines, commonly known as liver spots or age spots. These flat spots of brown and black pigmentation result from sun exposure over the course of a lifetime, and most often develop on the hands, arms, face, neck and back [source: American Academy of Dermatology]. These spots are usually harmless, but you should have a doctor evaluate any skin discoloration to ensure you are not developing a form of skin cancer called melanoma.
Varicose veins appear more prominently among elderly individuals and others with thin skin. Varicose veins, blue lines under the skin, occur when blood vessels swell and the valves that carry blood to the heart wear down. If blood collects in the veins, they increase in size and become more visible under the skin. While most varicose veins are not life threatening, they can be painful [source: Medline Plus]. When this occurs, you should consult a physician regarding treatments to alleviate the pain or procedures to remove the veins.
As with varicose veins, spider veins are also more visible in individuals with thin skin. Spider veins occur when blood vessels swell, but they generally are smaller than varicose veins and may appear blue, purple, or red-tinged. They most often appear on the legs and face, but they can develop in other places as well [source: WebMD].
Although you cannot stop aging, you can learn ways to take care of your skin as you age and help avoid the complications discussed above. As previously noted, the best defense against the damaging effects of time is to maintain healthy skin. Healthful food, adequate hydration and general physical fitness are the best ways to ensure overall health.
For more information, follow the links below.
Related HowStuffWorks Articles
- American Academy of Dermatology. "Be Sun SmartSM." 2009. (Accessed 8/7/09) http://www.aad.org/public/sun/smart.html
- Encyclopedia Britannica. "Skin (anatomy)." (Accessed 8/12/09) http://www.britannica.com/EBchecked/topic/547591/human-skin
- Gibson, Lawrence E. "Thin Skin: What Causes It?" September 26, 2007. MayoClinic.com. (Accessed 8/7/09) http://www.mayoclinic.com/health/thin-skin/AN01688
- Mayo Clinic Staff. "Dry skin." December 16, 2008. (Accessed 8/7/09) http://www.mayoclinic.com/print/moisturizers/SN00042/
- Mayo Clinic Staff. "Prednisone and other corticosteroids: Balance the risks and benefits." June 7, 2008. (Accessed 8/7/09) http://www.mayoclinic.com/health/steroids/HQ01431
- Medline Plus. "Aging Changes in Skin." August 10, 2008. (Accessed 8/7/09) http://www.nlm.nih.gov/medlineplus/ency/article/004014.htm
- Medline Plus. "Varicose Veins." (Accessed 8/7/09) http://www.nlm.nih.gov/medlineplus/varicoseveins.html
- Merck Source. "Skin (Integumentary System)." 2001. (Accessed 8/7/09) http://www.mercksource.com/ppdocs/us/cns/content/adam/visualbody/reftext/html/skin_sys_fin.html
- National Institute on Aging. "Chapter 3: Biochemistry and Aging." January 31, 2008. (Accessed 8/7/09) http://www.nia.nih.gov/HealthInformation/Publications/AgingUndertheMicroscope/chapter03.htm
- WebMD. "Skin Problems: Wrinkles." 2009. (Accessed 8/7/09) http://www.webmd.com/skin-problems-and-treatments/toc-image-picture-of-wrinkles
- WebMD. "Varicose Veins and Spider Veins." 2009. (Accessed 8/7/09) http://www.webmd.com/skin-problems-and-treatments/varicose-spider-veins