How To Treat Itchy Skin in the Elderly - featured image

Solving Pruritus - What Helps Itchy Skin In Elderly People

Updated July 19, 2023

Itchy skin can be frustrating and isolating for anyone. But for some people, it can feel like a constant cycle of stress and discomfort- especially as we get older. As we age, our skin gets drier — which is to say, less able to fight off bugs and other irritants. This makes itching skin more common than you might expect in the elderly population.
In fact, itchy skin, also known as pruritus, is one of the most common skin conditions in aging skin. Factors like dryness, clothing that’s too tight, or friction from exercise can cause minor rashes on exposed skin, . Many elderly people also experience their itchy skin as a result of environmental triggers. These include things like excessive moisture in clothing or bedding. Other factors include tiny dust particles, or allergens such as pet dander or pollen. Many people struggle with chronic pruritus or frequent bouts of itching around the neck, wrists, ankles and scalp. Read on to find out how it can be treated effectively.
But first, we need to learn a little bit about our skin, and how it changes as we age.
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Aging skin and the biology of growing older

Itching often occurs with dry skin and is usually a reaction to something that is irritating the skin. It could be dander, overactive nerves, or just an irritation of some kind. The thing that causes itchy skin in the elderly is not actually on the skin itself, but rather what’s going on underneath the surface level of your skin.
Elderly woman itching skin

As we get older, our cells become less able to fight off the eczema-causing germs and parasites that live on our skin. They are also less capable of producing oil, which can lead to dryness and irritation. This leads to less protection against other irritants like dust, dander, and allergens. These might be coming into contact with your skin without you even noticing it. This can cause itchy bumps to develop as well as rashes of different sizes and shapes across your body. This could be a tiny rash under your eye up to a wide patch that covers most of your back. It’s not always easy for those afflicted by frequent bouts of itching to pinpoint exactly what’s causing their symptoms. They may have multiple triggers at work simultaneously!

Causes of Itchy Skin in the Elderly

When it comes to treating the causes of pruritus in the elderly, there are a few potential areas of focus. The goal is to find the main factors that cause the itching and make changes to those triggers. Change in diet or sleeping habits can help reduce levels of stress and discomfort that itchy skin in an elderly patient is caused by.
It may seem obvious, but if you feel like your bedding is making you itch, consider switching out your mattress and sheets. You might also want to switch out old clothing or buy new ones if they’re irritating your skin. Another thing you might try is prevention. This can mean minimizing exposure to allergens, such as pet dander or pollen. It could involve avoiding things like tight clothing and exercise that may cause minor rashes on exposed areas.

Managing common skin conditions like dry, itchy skin in older patients

Older person and younger person hold hands

Moisturizers and lotions are important. The most impactful thing you can do to manage the dry and itchy skin of geriatric patients is to keep them hydrated. It seems obvious, but this is a fundamental principle that any dermatologist will agree with. It’s important for people of all ages to drink plenty of fluids, but this is especially true for older people. Whether it’s water or a non-alcoholic beverage, be sure that your elderly loved one has enough liquids in their system. The good news is that there are many different options available on the market today that make it easier than ever before to stay hydrated. Chronic dehydration can lead to other dermatological skin diseases or health problems. So remember to keep those fluids coming!

Special Care for Elderly Itching Skin

As you age, your skin becomes less able to fight off irritants and allergens. This can lead to itchiness that lasts for days or weeks on end. Your skin may also become dryer and more sensitive, which makes it even more prone to itching. Dry skin is usually something common in older adults that leads to a cycle of frequent scratching. This actually worsens the issue and increases the risk of infection.
But there’s good news: you don’t have to let constant itching control your life any longer! To keep your itchy skin at bay without resorting to scratching too much, try these tips:

1) Keep Your Hands Moisturized 

Keeping hands moisturized helps reduce dryness and irritation from friction. Additionally, it helps in avoiding infections caused by constant scratching. Moisturizing your hands can help prevent further cracking and peeling of the skin, which can worsen the problem in cases like this. A simple way to do this is by taking a hot bath before bed each night (or every few nights), allowing water from your bathtub to soak into the skin of your hands.
Hand dipping in parafin wax

Another popular option is to dip the hands in parafin wax. This creates a barrier on the skin that helps hold in moisture and keeps irritants out. Parafin wax treatments are especially beneficial. This is a great option for people who suffer from conditions like eczema or psoriasis. These treatments can help soothe itchiness and redness. Just make sure that the parafin wax is not too hot when you apply it, as this could cause further irritation.

2) Use Gentle Cleansers and Soaps

If you have sensitive skin, itchiness can be caused by using harsh cleansers or soaps. To help prevent this, look for products that are labeled “for sensitive skin” or “hypoallergenic.” These will likely be gentler on your skin. They won’t strip away natural oils that are specifically produced by oil glands to help keep skin moisturized.
Hand washing in sink

These products also typically don’t contain fragrances, which can irritate the skin and cause discomfort in some people. Long time users of a particular soap or cleanser, to not realize that the itchiness they experience may be due to the product they’re using. If you suspect this might be the case, try switching to a different product and see if your symptoms improve.

3) Apply a Cool Compress 

If your itch is localized (meaning it’s only in one spot), you can try applying a cool compress to the area for relief. This can help soothe itchiness and also reduce any inflammation or swelling. To make a cool compress, simply wet a clean cloth with cold water and apply it to the affected area. You may find it helpful to do this several times a day, especially if the itch is particularly bothersome. A compress works because the cold temperature helps to numb the itch receptors in the skin, providing temporary relief. Similar to how we put ice on a bruise to reduce pain and swelling.
A cold compress can reduce pain and swelling.

4) Take an Anti-Itch Medication

For immediate relief, it’s natural to want to reach for a common anti-itch cream. However, it’s important to consider potential side effects before taking any medication, especially if you’re elderly.
Many common anti-itch medications include corticosteroids. Unfortunately, these have proven to have some serious potential side effects. They can thin the skin if used too often, which can lead to tearing and infections, on top of making the actual itch worse. They are also simply ineffective. They can often take as long as two weeks to start working. This is problematic. The longer you use these products, the more likely these negative side effects will appear.
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Dermeleve® is a different type of anti-itch cream. It's designed to immediately provide long lasting relief for itching. Even better, it does it without any of the harmful side effects of corticosteroids. A single application of Dermeleve® starts working immediately to provide itch relief in as little as five minutes. It also lasts up to an incredible five HOURS!
Furthermore, Dermeleve® is safe for long term use. This means there’s no problem with making it a part of your daily skincare regimen to deal with chronic pruritus. Many long term sufferers of itchy skin swear by it!
The reason why it is safe to use for extended periods of time is because it is made with natural ingredients. These include shea butter and ceramides, isntead of chemicals concocted in a lab.
Shea butter is a natural fat that comes from the African Shea tree. It is extremely moisturizing, and has been shown to be effective in treating a number of skin conditions like eczema. Ceramides are another type of lipid that helps to fortify the skin barrier, keeping irritants out and moisture in. This is a powerful combination for itch relief that helps to promote healthy skin.
To learn more about Dermeleve® and how it can provide you with long lasting itch relief, visit the Dermeleve® website today!
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Q: Does aging cause itchy skin? 

A: While it is normal to experience itchiness as you age, it doesn’t necessarily mean your skin is in bad shape. If you take care of your skin and pay attention to the triggers that cause itchiness, you can deal with it—and help your skin stay healthy and strong. There are a few different ways you can help your skin stay healthy as you age.
First, try to keep your skin well-hydrated by using a good moisturizing cream or lotion. Also, pay close attention to cleansers and other products that you use on your face. Look for ones that are free of additives and other chemical ingredients, and use them only as directed by the label.
Another way to help your skin stay strong is to keep it protected from the elements. Wear clothing that’s breathable, comfortable, and loose-fitting whenever possible. You may have to wear synthetic materials because they’re more durable or wind-resistant. In that case make sure they have soft linings that cover your skin as much as possible.
Finally, avoid using too many products on your face. This is especially true for those with fragrances or ingredients like menthol or oil. These can trigger itchiness in susceptible individuals. Use these products carefully and in moderation only when necessary. This can help prevent rash-triggering chemicals from wreaking havoc on your sensitive skin.

Q: Why does skin itch as you get older? 

A: Itchiness is a common complaint among older adults. It is often related to dry skin, but can also be a side effect of medications. People with itchy skin may experience additional symptoms. These include redness, soreness, and irritation.
It may be more difficult to manage the symptoms of dry skin in older adults due to decreased hydration, which can lead to even itchier skin. So it’s important to use an effective moisturizer that can help balance water levels. Products like Dermeleve® that contain ceramides help protect the skin from moisture loss. They are also gentle enough for use on sensitive areas like the face and hands.
Stimulate the immune system with vitamin C supplements. Vitamin C helps the skin fight off infections and heals cracks and cuts. You can also try topical vitamin E creams in small amounts for added benefit. One option is Aquaphor Naturals with vitamin E. Another option is Bosica Regenerating Repair Cream with vitamins A and E.

Q: How can I soothe itchiness naturally? 

A: There are several natural remedies that can help soothe itchiness. You can apply a cool compress, use an anti-itch cream like Dermeleve®, take a bath with oatmeal or baking soda, and use a humidifier.

Q: Can itchiness be a sign of a serious health condition? 

A: In some cases, itchiness can be a sign of a serious health condition like liver disease or kidney failure. Experiencing itchiness along with other symptoms like fatigue, weight loss, or yellowing of the skin can be an indicaiton of this. It’s important to consult with your doctor.

Q: What is the best anti-itch cream for the elderly? 

A: There are many different anti-itch creams on the market, but not all of them are equally effective or safe for the elderly. One safe and effective option is Dermeleve®, which is made with natural ingredients like shea butter and ceramides. It starts working immediately to provide itch relief and can last up to five hours.

Q: What is pruritus? 

A: Pruritus, also known as itch, is a common sensation that causes a person to want to scratch their skin.

Q: How does pruritus affect the quality of life in elderly people?

A: Pruritus can significantly impact the quality of life in elderly people. It can cause discomfort, sleep disturbances, anxiety, and depression.

Q: What are some common causes of pruritus in elderly people? 

A: Common causes of pruritus in elderly people include xerosis (dry skin), scabies, and atopic dermatitis. Another cause could be venous insufficiency.

Q: How can pruritus be diagnosed in elderly people? 

A: Pruritus in elderly people can be diagnosed through a thorough medical history, and physical examination. In some cases, a skin biopsy may be necesarry.

Q: What are the treatment options for pruritus in elderly people? 

A: The treatment of pruritus in elderly people involves addressing the underlying cause. It may include the use of topical treatments, systemic medications, and lifestyle modifications.

Q: How can itch and skin damage be reduced in elderly people? 

A: To reduce itch and skin damage in elderly people, it is important to maintain good skin hygiene. Use gentle cleansers and moisturize regularly. Avoid irritants, and protect the skin from excessive exposure to water.

Q: What are some effective topical treatments for pruritus in elderly people?

A: Corticosteroids, emollients, and barrier creams are common topical treatments to relieve itch.

Q: Are there any specific considerations for managing pruritus in older populations?

A: Yes, managing pruritus in older populations requires taking into account age related changes in the skin. Others include co-morbidities, and the potential interactions between medications.