What is skin atrophy?

Cutaneous atrophy is a skin condition characterized by reduction of its thickness and loss of its functions and propertiesespecially elastic fibers. It is mainly affected epidermisthe most superficial layer of the skin, which becomes more fragile, regenerates more slowly and is more prone to wounds and ulcerations.

For what is this?

In general, atrophy is the manifestation of a reduction in cell volume and, consequently, in the organ of which they are a part. Atrophic cells also have decreased function. In this sense, atrophy can be understood as a involution in cell morphology and functionalitywhich implies that previously there were healthy cells.

It is therefore an acquired disease, an essential difference from other similar conditions, such as hypoplasia or aplasia, which have a congenital origin. It must also be differentiated from other conditions that occur with a decrease in the volume of organs and loss of functionality due to necrotic processes, since in atrophy there is no traumatic cell death, but rather the cells are still alive, although reduced in size and functionality.

The term atrophy comes from the Greek atrophos"without nutrition", and refers to the underlying cause of the atrophies, which is the lack of nutrients or their inefficient use by the cellthat is, interference in cell metabolism for any reason or cause.

In the specific case of skin atrophy, the most common causes are age and treatment with topical corticosteroids:

  1. Age: aging causes a slower and inefficient metabolism and a lower capacity for regeneration. For this reason, it is normal for a certain degree of skin atrophy to develop with age, which is known as senile atrophy.
  2. Pharmacological treatments: Some drugs can cause skin atrophy as a side effect. In the case of corticosteroidsis a fairly common side effect, especially if applied topically (creams, ointments, lotions, etc).
  3. Diseases: Some diseases cause skin atrophy among their symptoms. For example, dermatomyositis, cutaneous lupus erythematosus or diabetes.
  4. Radiation

Most prominent symptoms

The most obvious symptoms of skin atrophy are a thinner skindry, scaly and tight as a result of the loss of elasticity. These symptoms may be accompanied by itching and redness. In addition, the skin may appear rough, papery in texture. Blood vessels, bones, and other subcutaneous structures become more prominent and more visible.

Due to these symptoms, cutaneous atrophy is often the subject of cosmetic concern, but it is a health problem that can have consequences far beyond appearance.

The skin is a physical barrier that, among other functions, is part of the immune response by protecting us from external agents. When it is atrophied, it is more likely to break, tear and be attacked by infectious agents, in addition to recovering more slowly from these problems. In atrophied skin, it is common to see rashes, bedsores, or dermomycosis (fungal infections).

Before the first symptoms, it is advisable to go to the doctor to evaluate the possible causes and the available treatments. Most treatments include changes in the skin care habitsespecially with regard to the use of soaps and cosmetics, and a deeper hydration.

The treatment of skin atrophy can also include pharmacological intervention, both with the prescription of new treatments, such as cell regeneration stimulators, and the withdrawal of treatments that are contraindicated.

When skin atrophy is caused by treatment with corticosteroids, the health professional should assess whether or not to continue with their use, assessing the risks and benefits. In case the croticoids are withdrawn, and depending on the time elapsed and the damage caused, the skin can take a long time to fully recover, even more than a year.

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