Common skin problems in the over-50s

Lesley Dobson / 15 July 2020

Read our guide to some of the most common skin problems in the over-50s, including actinic keratoses, pruritis, eczema and psoriasis.

According to the British Skin Foundation around 60% of people in the UK have had a skin disease at some time. Here is our guide to four of those most common in people aged 50 and over.

What are actinic keratoses?

Actinic keratoses are patches of thicker, sometimes scaly, skin that often appear on the backs of your hands and arms, face, ears, and on the scalp of bald men and on women’s lower legs, all areas that may have been exposed to the sun.

These patches can be pink, red or brown or the same colour as your skin. They may be like sandpaper to touch, and may be hard and rather warty, or raised up from the surrounding skin.

Find out more about actinic keratoses causes and treatments

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What is pruritis?

The main symptom of pruritis is itchy skin without a rash. The most common cause for this condition in people over 65 is dry skin. Itchy skin can also be caused by other skin problems, such as insect bites, eczema, allergies, or conditions that affect the whole body, for instance liver problems, or by medicines.

Pruritus is one of the most common symptoms of skin disorders. It may appear in just one area of your body, or can cover much larger areas of your skin. Your doctor may carry out a skin biopsy to check on whether you have pruritis, or may may order blood tests to see if any other conditions are making you feel itchy.

Applying a moisturiser to the affected areas may help you feel less itchy. According to the British Association of Dermatologists, the greasiest moisturisers are most likely to produce the best results.

Find out more about pruritis causes and treatments

What is varicose eczema?

There are a number of different types of eczema (also known as dermatitis), which commonly result in patches of dry, scaly, red and itchy skin. In more severe cases, there may also be weeping, crusting and bleeding.

Varicose eczema is particularly common in women, those with varicose veins, and obese older people. Reports suggest that 20% of those aged over 70 are affected by it. It begins with mild itchiness of your skin around a patch of varicose veins, becoming speckled, scaly and inflamed. It may, in some cases, also turn brown and feel hard to the touch.

Treatments include raising your legs often (on a chair or stool), making sure you keep active, and applying moisturisers and corticosteroid creams (ask your GP about these) to the skin on your legs.

Find out more about the causes and treatments for varicose eczema

What is psoriasis?

Psoriasis is a non-contagious condition that usually causes reddened patches of skin covered with thin silvery scales. Although it often develops in the teens or 20s, it can also appear in men and women in their 50s or 60s.

There are a number of types of psoriasis, including plaque psoriasis, scalp psoriasis, guttate psoriasis, pustular psoriasis, nail psoriasis and, sometimes, psoriatic arthritis, which affects the joints.

Psoriasis can affect about 2% of the UK population, but generally affects adults under 35 most often.

Find out more about psoriasis

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The material is for general information only and does not constitute investment, tax, legal, medical or other form of advice. You should not rely on this information to make (or refrain from making) any decisions. Always obtain independent, professional advice for your own particular situation.