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Chapter: Essentials of Anatomy and Physiology: The Integumentary System

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Aging and the Integumentary System

The effects of age on the integumentary system are often quite visible.

AGING AND THE INTEGUMENTARY SYSTEM

 

The effects of age on the integumentary system are often quite visible. Both layers of skin become thinner and more fragile as mitosis in the epidermis slows and fibroblasts in the dermis die and are not replaced; repair of even small breaks or cuts is slower. The skin becomes wrinkled as collagen and elastin fibers in the dermis deteriorate. Sebaceous glands and sweat glands become less active; the skin becomes dry, and temper-ature regulation in hot weather becomes more difficult. Hair follicles become inactive and hair on the scalp and body thins. Melanocytes die and are not replaced; the hair that remains becomes white. There is often less fat in the subcutaneous tissue, which may make an elderly person more sensitive to cold. It is important for elderly people (and those who care for them) to realize that extremes of temperature may be harmful and to take special precautions in very hot or very cold weather.

 

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