The Effects of Aging With Integumentary System

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As we advance in years, our bodies inexorably change. The most visible changes of all occur in the integumentary system—our skin, hair, nails and glands.

Aging causes changes in the hair, skin, glands and nails.
Aging causes changes in the hair, skin, glands and nails.

Identification

As a person ages, his skin and fat tissue become thinner and less elastic. His oil glands produce less oil, and he has fewer sweat glands. He produces less melanin, so his hair color fades to gray or white. His fingernails and toenails grow more slowly and may thicken.

As people age, hair fades to gray or white.
As people age, hair fades to gray or white.

Effects

Older people have rougher, slacker, more transparent, wrinkled, fragile skin that bruises easily. The loss of fat tissue can make eye sockets look sunken and the person’s face seem more skeletal. According to Medicine Net, about 85 percent of older adults have dry, itchy skin in cold weather.

Wrinkled skin is a sign of aging.
Wrinkled skin is a sign of aging.

Risk Factors

While many age-related changes are inevitable, there are some controllable risk factors. Smokers, for example, are more prone to wrinkles. People who have spent a lot of time in the sun will notice their skin sags more, is more fragile and heals more slowly when compared to those who’ve avoided the sun.

Smoking causes more wrinkles.
Smoking causes more wrinkles.

Tips

An older person can minimize age-related dry skin discomfort by avoiding hot baths and limiting the use of perfumes and soaps.

Avoiding excessively hot baths can minimize age-related dry skin.
Avoiding excessively hot baths can minimize age-related dry skin.

Warning

Sun exposure throughout the lifespan can accentuate normal skin changes that occur with old age, according to the Merck Manual Home Edition.

Too much sun exposure can damage skin.
Too much sun exposure can damage skin.

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