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What Your Skin Reveals about Your Health as You Age

Posted 1/23/2017 by UHBlog

What can your skin tell you about your overall health, especially the older you get? Ask us.

What Your Skin Reveals about Your Health as You Age

If the eyes are the window to the soul, then the skin may be the window to most other areas. As the largest organ, your outside can give many clues to what is happening to your inside.

“The skin gives us indicators of disorders across most systems,” says dermatologist Danyelle Dawes, MD. “For example, a brown discoloration of the neck is often seen in those with diabetes. Thyroid problems can present with generalized itching.”

As you age, your skin can give clues of different health conditions, which can include:

  • Soft, yellow spots on the eyelids, which can suggest a higher risk of heart disease.
  • Color changes that may indicate something is wrong. Paleness can be a sign of anemia. A yellow tone can indicate liver disease. A bluish tint in your lips or nail beds can indicate heart or lung disease.
  • Unwanted hair, particularly along the jaw line, chin and upper lip. This could be a symptom of polycystic ovary syndrome, a hormone imbalance.

“Each person should make sure as they age that they're getting the appropriate health screenings,” Dr. Dawes says. “Skin screenings for seniors are every bit as important as mammographies for women and colonoscopies for both sexes.”

Winter can present special skin concerns as you age. As the temperatures go down, furnaces come on. Heating your home lowers the humidity in the environment. This, in turn, draws moisture from your skin. If not replaced, you can start to itch and rashes may develop.

To prevent and relieve dryness, Dr. Dawes suggests:

  • Consider changing soaps. Bar soaps usually have less detergents than liquid soaps.
  • Use a moisturizing cream. Anything that comes in a jar and can be scooped out is generally better than lotions that have a higher water content.
  • Stay away from water-based moisturizers.
  • Although not always thought of as a moisturizer, getting enough water is another consideration. Your skin gets hydrated from the inside out as well.
  • On a similar note, think about what you are eating and drinking. Caffeinated and alcoholic beverages remove water from your body, making less moisture available for the skin.

“I get asked a lot about using sunscreens in the winter,” she says. “Ultraviolet (UV) radiation reflects off of the snow and ice, which means you can still get sunburned even in the colder months. There has never been a study looking for an age (when) you can safely forego sunscreens from a skin cancer perspective. However, prevention of painful burning alone is a good reason to keep using them.”

If you have skin questions or notice changes in your skin, Dr. Dawes recommends contacting a dermatologist or your primary care physician for more information.

Danyelle Dawes, MD is a dermatologist at University Hospital Cleveland Medical Center. You can request an appointment with Dr. Dawes or any other doctor online.

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