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Identifying common lesions and rashes in elderly people

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Skin changes are one of the most visible and significant signs of ageing and help to determine a person's age. Features include wrinkles, sagging and paper-thin skin, vulnerable to damage.

Genetic makeup and other physiological changes, such as those caused by exposure to sunlight and the environment, also contribute to the ageing process seen on the skin.

The ageing process results in a significant reduction in the skin's thickness and number of sweat glands, leading to dryness, splitting and cracking. Older skin is more vulnerable to a number of dermatological conditions, particularly dry skin with associated itching and eczema; irritant and contact dermatitis; and skin breakdown associated with pressure.1

The normal parameters of skin structure and function alter as we age; what is normal for a younger person will not necessarily be so for an older person. Basic skin-care needs of older people can be neglected or dealt with only when major skin breakdown occurs.

The easiest way to categorise skin conditions is to divide them according to the type of lesion affecting the skin: primary or secondary. The term 'lesion' refers to any abnormality, sore or coloured area on the skin. Consideration of the time of onset, location and symptoms experienced will aid diagnosis and management of the condition.

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