Natural Process of Aging

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INTEGUMENTARY SYSTEM:The integumentary system refers to the skin, hair and nails. The skin is the human body’s largest organ, and no matter what a person’s age, healthy skin is the single most extensive protection against potential health hazards. The skin is important because it does the following:

  1. Keeps out infectious organisms
  2. Protects against injury
  3. Regulates body temperature
  4. Assists in secreting wastes
  5. Complete the course evaluation.
  6. Acts as an extensive sensory receptor

The three layers of the skin are the epidermis, dermis, and subcu­taneous tissue. With aging, the epidermis loses its ability to retain fluids, making it drier and less supple. Changes in the tissue and fiber of the dermis result in a loss of fluid and elastici­ty. And the subcutaneous tissue loses fat – decreasing its cush­ioning effect and causing wrinkling and slackness of the skin.

Skin that is dry, loose, and wrinkled is a common sign of physical aging. Taking proper care of the skin is more important than ever for skin exhibiting the signs of aging. Because the skin is drier, it is more easily damaged and requires careful cleaning and mois­turizing.

Because soap can dry out the skin, washing less often and using less soap can help the skin retain moisture. Applying lotions and oils that can add moisture may also help the condition of the skin.

Because the subcutaneous tissue loses fat, slackness of the skin may develop, especially in the periphery of the body, such as the arms, legs, neck, and face.

Discoloration may occur because of reduced blood supply to the skin. Lentigo senilis, also called liver spots, (though the condi­tion is unrelated to the liver) can develop on the hands and wrists, and sometimes on the face and ankles.

Because older skin provides less support to fragile blood vessels, an older person may bruise more easily and the bruise may last longer.

Because aging usually means many years of skin exposure to radiation from the sun and other sources, there is a significant correlation between aging and benign and malignant lesions. For this reason, overexposing the skin to direct sunlight should be avoided.

At one end of the spectrum, the aging are at increased risk for malignant melanoma, a dangerous form of skin cancer. But seborrheic keratoses are the most common skin tumors among older people. They tend to grow in areas covered by clothing. They are harmless and can be easily removed for cosmetic reasons.

Because the aged are at increased risk for health problems that may limit movement, pressure sores are a serious problem. They are caused by inadequate tissue nutrition in cases of prolonged pressure over bony areas. Pressure sores can often be prevented by:

  • relieving the pressure on a regular basis through position changes
  • providing good nutrition and hydration
  • regularly stimulating circulation through exercise and massage
  • keeping the skin clean and dry.

Remember that the older person’s skin may be very fragile and should be handled gently.

Fingernails and toenails also undergo change with aging. They may become thickened and brittle due to diminished capillary beds and possibly old fungal infections. And they may become increasingly yellow in color. To prevent damage to the nails, they should be trimmed frequently. To prevent cracking, they should be soaked in warm water prior to trimming. In cases where the effects of aging on the toenails are severe, it may be necessary to have a podiatrist provide care. .

In addition, changes in the distribution and color of hair may occur with age. While men may lose facial hair, for women it is normal to have an increase in facial hair around the nose and chin. Also, soft facial hair may become bristly. Both men and women may experience thinning hair and baldness due to atro­phy of hair follicles and changes in hormone production. Loss of pigmentation typically turns the hair white or grey.

Methodology: Home study or On-line study CE Broker hours: 3