Our skin is often the first place we notice signs of aging. Beyond just wrinkles and age spots, our skin is a reflector of our overall health, and yet it is often overlooked.
Did you know…
The skin is the largest organ in the body. It has a very important job — protecting our internal organs and systems from bacteria and other foreign matter that can make us sick or otherwise damage us.
As we age, however, our skin also begins to change. It loses elasticity, becomes thinner and drier, begins to sag, and takes longer to heal. Damage to the skin that occurred in our youth can also start to appear in the form of age spots and dry patches. Medications, diet and exercise can also impact your skin, which is why it is important to check it regularly for changes.
Among the changes that require attention is the appearance of moles and skin tags, as they can indicate more serious conditions, including diabetes, kidney disease, and several forms of cancer. (link to: https://www.cancer.gov/types/skin)
Good Skin Care Is a Must
- Drink plenty of water! The human body is 70 percent water. Staying hydrated is essential to overall health as well as keeping your skin soft and supple. Dry skin can create itchy patches, redness and, if you scratch them, sores that can take time to heal and allow bacteria to enter the body.
- Eat your veggies! A well-rounded diet that includes lots of vegetables is a must. Beyond our overall health, vegetables contain the ingredients essential for healthy skin.
- Moisturize! Use a good body lotion daily in order toto keep skin supple and smooth. Moisturizing also helps with itching and reduces self-imposed scratch marks. Other ways to keep your skin moist is to take fewer baths. Use warm, not hot, water. And, if dry air in your room is a problem, try a humidifier to add a little moisture.
- Use Sunscreen! Everyone today knows the dangers of too much sun. While we need sunlight to provide the vitamin D that we absorb through our skin, too much sun is responsible for age spots and several types of cancers.
Skin checks are not often standard in wellness checks at the family doctor. In addition to annual visits to the dermatologist, With months in between visits, however, it is good practice to do a skin check every month or two.
Even if your loved ones are in an assisted living or other facility, it is a good practice check their skin periodically. The aides that dress or bathe them may not notice or be as adequately trained to spot changes in skin health other than skin breakdown that may indicate a serious health issue.
Catching problems early is the best prevention.
The National Institutes of Health has provided this handy guide for what to look for.
Check Moles, Birthmarks, or Other Parts of the Skin for the “ABCDE’s”
A = Asymmetry (one half of the growth looks different from the other half)
B = Borders that are irregular
C = Color changes or more than one color
D = Diameter greater than the size of a pencil eraser
E = Evolving; this means the growth changes in size, shape, symptoms (itching, tenderness), surface (especially bleeding), or shades of color
See your doctor right away if you have any of these signs to make sure it is not skin cancer.