Parchment skin • Signs, care & wound care

Parchment skin is characteristic of being thin, very dry and prone to injury. Older people are mostly affected, but certain diseases or medications can also trigger atrophic skin in younger people. How to recognize parchment skin and what to look for when caring for it.

Atrophic skin appears similar to parchment. It is very dry and sensitive, injuries and wounds are easy to occur. Parchment skin can develop on any part of the body, but mostly on particularly stressed areas such as the elbows, backs of the hands or shins.

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What is parchment skin?

Parchment skin (atrophic skin) is a condition that is characterized by very thin, dry to rough skin. In addition, it is very sensitive to external influences, so that those affected often have to struggle with larger wounds. It is true that the elderly are mostly affected, but the parchment skin must be medically differentiated from the skin of old age. Because in addition to the aging process, various causes such as drugs or diseases can cause parchment skin to develop.

Causes of parchment skin

Parchment skin is common in older people – but there are certain causes that can cause it to appear at a younger age. Atrophic skin is not just a symptom of old age.

Possible causes:

When treating with cortisone, there is often concern that, in the worst case, parchment skin will appear. The skin becomes thinner and less elastic due to the active ingredient, but cortisone has to be used over a longer period of time. The parchment skin usually only occurs as part of long-term, high-dose cortisone therapy. Those affected should discuss their concerns with the treating doctor if necessary.

Symptoms and signs

If a standing fold remains when the skin is pressed together for a few seconds, this is a sign of parchment skin. In contrast, healthy skin immediately returns to its original state – unless the skin is not sufficiently hydrated, i.e. dehydrated. Another symptom of parchment skin is that it is very sensitive to external influences and is easily injured by a bump or scratch. It can tear open and cause larger wounds. These usually heal very slowly and can easily become infected due to infections.

Signs of parchment skin:

  • very dry skin
  • sensitive skin
  • flaky, rough skin
  • itching
  • slightly shiny skin surface
  • bluish discoloration of the skin
  • Blood vessels shine through
  • Susceptibility to bruising

Diagnosis of atrophic skin

As a rule, a visual diagnosis is sufficient to determine parchment skin: flaky, dry and translucent skin are clear signs. In addition, the skin turgor, i.e. the skin’s state of tension, is determined by means of standing skin folds. To do this, the skin is taken between the thumb and forefinger and a skin fold is formed. If it stays there for a few seconds, the moisture content of the skin is reduced. In order to confirm the diagnosis, the doctor will ask in the anamnesis discussion about other complaints, whether those affected have a diagnosed underlying disease or are taking medication.

Treat parchment skin

If an underlying disease such as Cushing’s syndrome or diabetes mellitus is the cause of the parchment skin, it will be treated accordingly. As a rule, the symptoms of the parchment skin also improve or it regenerates completely. If certain medications lead to dry parchment skin, these can be discontinued or switched to a different preparation after consultation with a doctor. However, this should not be done on one’s own initiative so as not to endanger the treatment of the underlying disease.

Tips for caring for parchment skin

Proper skin care is crucial for people with parchment skin. This alleviates symptoms and usually improves the complexion and barrier function of the skin. Water-in-oil emulsions, which form a film of fat on the skin and protect against moisture loss, are suitable for skin care. Products with fragrances and additives should be avoided if possible. It is also important to have a sufficient intake of fluids (water, unsweetened tea, highly diluted juice spritzers) with more than 1.5 liters per day.

If wounds have developed, they should be well cared for: Wound dressings that stick to the surrounding skin should be avoided with parchment skin, as they can further damage the skin. Non-self-adhesive wound dressings or those with a silicone-coated adhesive edge are more suitable. They can be removed easily and gently, some are also waterproof and can be worn when washing and showering. The wounds should be done carefully and adapted to the needs of the skin – those affected should seek medical advice beforehand or have wounds tended by medical professionals.

More tips on skin care:

  • Sun exposure of parchment skin as much as possible

  • Protection from cold and heat

  • Wash skin only with water or pH-neutral washing lotions

  • Do not shower too hot (less than 36 ° C)

  • Do not take full baths or only rarely

  • Soft towel to dry off

  • Gently pat the skin dry

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Source: Lifeline | Das Gesundheitsportal by www.lifeline.de.

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