Itchy skin in the elderly

Studies show that almost 4 in 10 elderly have problems with itchy skin. What causes itchy skin in the elderly, what consequences can it have, and how can it be addressed?

Itchy skin is a very common problem among the elderly. The prevalence among people aged 65 and over is around 37%.1 Itchy skin can be very troublesome. Nocturnal itching, especially, can impact severely on quality of life if your sleep is disturbed from waking up several times during the night.

What causes itchy skin in the elderly?
Itchy skin in the elderly can be caused by decreased kidney function. The kidney function often decreases with age, and a large percentage of elderly have decreased kidney function.1

The kidney function often decreases with age.

Itchy skin in the elderly can be caused by decreased kidney function

As part of the body’s natural metabolism, urea and other waste products are produced and subsequently filtered from the blood through the kidneys. If the kidney function is decreased, urea can build up in the blood. This can cause modifications to the proteins in the skin and cause a lack of moisturizing amino acids in the skin, leading to a damaged skin barrier and itchy skin.

If the kidney function is decreased, urea can build up in the blood and damage the skin barrier from within.

Itchy skin in the elderly can also be caused by several other factors. For instance, older people produce less filaggrin which leads to a less robust skin barrier and dry, scaly skin. Chronically dry and itchy skin in the elderly can also be due to medications (e.g. opioids, penicillin, etc.) as well as chronic diseases such as diabetes mellitus and psoriasis.1

Chronic itching can significantly reduce quality of life.1

Help to itchy skin
Itchy skin caused by decreased kidney function can be soothed with creams that contain moisturizing oils and a high amino acid content that replenishes the hydrating amino acids lacking in the skin.

Would you like to learn more?
If you would like to learn more about itchy skin in the elderly you can delve into the scientific article listed for reference below.

Reference
  1. Fourzali, K.M., Yosipovitch, G. Management of Itch in the Elderly: A Review. Dermatol Ther (Heidelb) 9, 639–653 (2019)

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