There is a common misconception that pimples do not occur in the senior years. Although it is uncommon, the elderly may also develop pimples on the skin as do teens and younger adults. Pimples can be as distressing to the elderly, particularly aesthetic conscious seniors, as it is to younger sufferers. It is true that the skin disease, acne vulgaris, is rare in the elderly. However, being rare does not mean that it never occurs.
When true acne vulgaris starts up in the senior years then it needs to be investigated immediately as it may be a consequence of some other underlying disease. Pimples are one of the signs of the acne vulgaris. Therefore it is important to differentiate between pimples on its own and pimples with acne vulgaris in senior years.
Acne vulgaris is a skin condition marked by the presence of blackheads, whiteheads, pimples and sometimes cysts. These are just the skin features of the condition, as are other symptoms like oily skin and itchiness. Acne vulgaris occurs when some disturbance, usually an increase in the male hormones (androgens), increases sebum (oil) production. This causes oily skin and allows for dead skin cells and dust to clog the pore. This may lead to skin inflammation mainly due to the contribution of certain type of naturally occurring skin bacteria.
Pimples are raised red lesions on the skin, medically known as papules. It is a distinguishing feature of acne but may arise even when it is not part of the acne. A blockage of a follicle can occurs for any number of reasons. The use of cosmetics such as cover up foundation and talcum powder are some of the common offending agents, irrespective of age. However, there are various other types of injuries and diseases of the skin that may cause pimples.
Acne is most prominent in the teen years, starting around the time of puberty and often continuing into the twenties. It has been linked to the changes in the hormone levels with puberty. Acne can also start up with using oral contraceptives, pregnancy and sometimes even menopause or the use of hormone replacement therapy (HRT) in this stage of life. However, these hormone-related events are of little consideration for seniors, especially elderly women, who have passed the reproductive years of their life.
Instead acne, both in elderly men and women, may be a consequence of internal disturbance in the body. Sometimes it is related to the use of medication like hormone replacement therapy in women, or even hormone drugs in the treatment of certain types of cancers. At other times it may be the first signs of serious diseases where other symptoms will only become evident at a later stage. Therefore acne in seniors should not just be seen as a matter of some pimples with hormone changes. Essentially these hormone changes should not be occurring in the senior years.
It is important that the elderly do not attempt to start treating acne or pimples on their own. Acne vulgaris in seniors is usually a condition that started earlier in life and continues into the sixties and seventies. When acne or pimples start in the senior years, then it is an indication that there is some underlying disturbance, either within the skin only or the body. It needs to assessed, properly diagnosed and treated accordingly. Attempting to use over-the-counter products without first seeking doctor’s assessment can mask the true presentation.
Treatment for acne, when actually present, is essentially the same as it is for younger patients. Antibiotics are indicated for repeated infections and to prevent recurring pimples. Even medication like isotretinoin, the wonder acne drug, can be used by seniors although careful monitoring is essential. Isotretinoin is known for its harsh side effects and its role in raising cholesterol is more significant in seniors who may already be suffering with high blood cholesterol. Proper management should be undertaken with a doctor’s supervision and the elderly should make note of any symptoms that arise and immediately report it.