Skin tears are acute, traumatic injuries, presenting predominantly in the elderly. They occur principally on the extremities as a result of friction and shearing forces which separate the principal layers of the skin.1
Skin tears were first defined in 1993.2 Some are unavoidable, but many are considered preventable.2,3 Although they are perceived to be common among the elderly, these types of wounds often go unreported, especially in the community setting.4
The majority of prevalence and incidence data originates from the USA and Australia. To date, there is no robust prevalence data available for the UK. Therefore the financial impact of skin tears on the NHS is not fully known.5
The main causes of skin tears are mechanical trauma, often from wheelchair injuries, removal of adhesive tapes or dressing, transfers and falls,1,6-8 though in some cases no apparent cause is found.1
In older people, most skin tears are seen on the extremities, usually the arms, dorsal aspect of the hands, and the lower limbs.
Skin tears cause significant pain and adversely affect quality of life. With an ageing population, it is essential that healthcare professionals ensure they are confident and competent in the management of skin tears.
Physiology of ageing skin
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