Common skin problems in people over 50

According to the British Skin Foundation, around 60% of people in the UK have had a skin condition at some point. Here’s our guide to four of the most common among people aged 50 and over.

Sandpaper skin patches: actinic keratoses

Actinic keratoses are thicker, sometimes scaly patches of skin that often appear on the backs of the hands and arms, face, ears, and on the scalp of balding men and on the lower legs of women, all skin types. areas that may have been exposed to the sun.

These plaques can be pink, red or brown or the same color as your skin. They may feel like sandpaper to the touch, and may be hard and rather warty, or raised from the surrounding skin.

Learn more about the causes and treatments of actinic keratoses

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Itchy skin: pruritus

The main symptom of pruritus is itchy skin without a rash. Dry skin is the most common cause of this condition in people over 65. Itchy skin can also be caused by other skin problems, such as insect bites, eczema, allergies or conditions that affect the whole body, such as liver problems, or by medications.

Itching can also be the result of contact with makeup or prickly plants. In some cases, it may be difficult to find a cause at all. If you suffer from itchy skin, either in a small area or all over, see your doctor.

It’s worth thinking about any other symptoms that have appeared along with the itching, any unusual foods you’ve eaten recently. Write down anything you’re allergic to, and any medications you’re taking—aspirin, for example, can cause an allergic reaction. Having this information can help your GP identify a possible cause.

Pruritus is one of the most common symptoms of skin conditions. It can appear in just one area of ​​your body or can cover much larger areas of your skin. Your doctor may perform a skin biopsy to check if you have pruritus, or may order blood tests to see if other conditions are causing you to feel itchy.

If you can figure out what’s causing your itchy skin, that should make it easier to treat the problem.

Your doctor will examine the itchy area of ​​your skin for signs of insect bites or allergic reactions. They may suggest swapping one medication for another if they think your medication may be causing your itching. They may suggest blood tests to check if a medical condition is causing the problem.

There are a number of different treatments you can try for pruritus. You can buy anti-itch creams over the counter or your GP can prescribe an antihistamine cream. Antihistamine tablets or syrup work in some cases, or you can try a steroid cream. Simple moisturizers can often help, especially if you have dry skin. Ask your pharmacist which moisturizer they would recommend for pruritus.

Applying moisturizer to the affected areas can help you feel less itchy. According to the British Association of Dermatologists, the oiliest moisturizers are most likely to produce the best results.

Learn more about the causes and treatments of pruritus

Itchy varicose veins: varicose eczema

There are different types of eczema (also known as dermatitis), which usually results in patches of dry, scaly, red and itchy skin. In more severe cases, there may also be weeping, crusting, and bleeding.

Varicose eczema is particularly common in women, people with varicose veins and obese older people. Reports suggest that 20% of people over the age of 70 are affected. It begins with the skin around a patch of varicose veins becoming mildly itchy, becoming speckled, scaly and inflamed. It may, in some cases, also turn brown and be hard to the touch.

Treatments include raising your legs often (on a chair or stool), staying active, and applying moisturizers and corticosteroid creams (ask your GP) to the skin on your legs.

Learn more about the causes and treatments of varicose eczema

Red scaly skin: psoriasis

Psoriasis is a non-contagious condition that typically causes reddened patches of skin covered in fine, silvery scales. Although it often develops in the teens or twenties, it can also appear in men and women in their 50s or 60s.

There are several types of psoriasis, including plaque psoriasis, scalp psoriasis, guttate psoriasis, pustular psoriasis, nail psoriasis, and sometimes psoriatic arthritis, which affects the joints.

Psoriasis can affect around 2% of the UK population, but generally affects adults under the age of 35 most often.

Learn more about psoriasis

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