Skin Tears

skin tears on elderly skin

Thinning Skin, Bruising and Skin Tears

There are 3 categories of skin tears:

  1. The skin flap is still present and has enough size to cover the tear 
  2. When the skin flap is damaged and the tear can't heal easily
  3. The skin flap isn't present. This is the most problematic of skin tears and can take a long time to heal, sometimes with complications.

Skin tears definition:

Skin tears are lacerations that can extend through the top layer of skin (epidermis) and into – but not through – the dermis, which is the lower layer of skin that contains capillaries, nerve endings, sweat glands and hair follicles. Friction or shear force can cause separation of the epidermis from the dermis, thereby creating a jagged or angular flap of skin.

As we age most of us develop 'Thinning skin' or 'Weak skin' on our lower legs and forearms, due to many factors including sun exposure , long term use of medical steroids, inflammatory diseases, or just simply advancing years. When skin is thinner than normal it is very easily torn, split or cut by even the smallest of knocks and friction.These very common injuries are known as 'skin tears' or 'skin flaps' which if left untreated can quite easily turn into ulcers which are not just painful but take an extended time to heal. 

Skin tears can leave a loose flap of skin, surrounded by unsightly bruising.People tend to loose confidence after suffering a skin tear and quite regularly are afraid of repeating the injury. Probably the worst result of all from such a minor bump is the loss of confidence. Sufferers become very afraid of repeat injury, so everyday activities like simply doing housework, gardening or walking the dog are often avoided which adds up to other health problems with the lack of exercise, not to mention depression.

So people who are the greatest risk of skin injuries are often older persons, especially when using mobility equipment like walkers or wheelchairs, maybe have low vision and also be taking medication like blood thinners.

 3 very simple steps to avoid skin tears:

  • Use a moisturiser regularly.

  • Drink plenty of water.

  • Wear specialised limb protectors ​when at risk of bumping your skin.

Bruises on shins

Even a bruised leg on younger skin like the image above can be avoided - the impact of a bruise injury like this to an older person could lead to skin tears and skin flaps and much pain.