British Skin Foundation - Elderly/Older Skin

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Very itchy skin

Postby Guest Posts on Wed Mar 13, 2019 10:27 am

At any time of the day or evening – or even when I go to bed – I get areas of very itchy skin, most frequently on my back around the shoulder blades, hence virtually unreachable to scratch (no doubt a good thing) and sometimes on my forearm or ankle. I also get an itchy scalp quite frequently. There is nothing visible, except if it is on an area I can and do scratch this results in red angry thin-skin damage. The only cream I have found so far that helps is E45 Scratch Relief, which is effective very quickly. Obviously it’s just an aid, not a cure.
Any advice on treatment to try?

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Re: Very itchy skin

Postby Dr Sarita Singh on Thu Mar 14, 2019 9:10 pm

Itchy skin without a visible rash can have several causes, including thyroid problems or iron deficiency, but dry skin is the most common cause of itching without rash in the older population. Xerosis is the medical name for dry skin and by the age of 70 years nearly all adults are affected.

Studies have shown that emollients combined with humectants (eg. urea) are the best strategy for treating xerosis. These can be obtained over the counter from a pharmacy (look for a product that contains at least 10% urea). You could use an ointment paraffin-based emollient at night for extra grease! Moisturise at least twice a day.

Avoid soaps and shower gels as these can exacerbate itchy and/or dry skin. Instead look for a soap substitute. Bathing in tepid water for 10 minutes with an added fragrance free Dermatological grade bath oil enables the skin to absorb water. You should moisturise immediately after washing to help lock in the moisture.

I am sure that if you follow these suggestions, your skin will feel itchy. You should also ask your GP to perform some routine blood tests to exclude any underlying problems that might be causing or contributing to the itch.

Dr Sarita Singh
Dr Sarita Singh
Consultant Dermatologist & British Skin Foundation Spokesperson
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