Vol 10, No 1 (2024)
Review paper
Published online: 2024-02-01

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Pruritus in elderly patients: review of literature

Paula Mazan1, Aleksandra Lesiak12, Joanna Narbutt1
Forum Dermatologicum 2024;10(1):1-9.


Pruritus is the most common symptom reported by dermatology patients, including the geriatric patient population. Due to population ageing, pruritus will be an increasingly common reason for medical consultations. Pruritus can involve both previously affected and unaffected skin, occurring as the only manifestation of the disease. Chronic pruritus lasting more than six weeks has a significant impact on patients’ quality of life, often resulting in sleep disorders and depressive-anxiety disorders. Mechanisms responsible for pruritus in the elderly include abnormal dermal-epidermal barrier, age-related changes in the immune system, and central and peripheral neuropathy. Xerosis is considered the most common cause of pruritus in geriatric patients. Chronic pruritus occurs in the course of many dermatological conditions, as well as Internal diseases, and neurological or psychiatric disorders. The treatment of chronic pruritus in elderly patients may sometimes be a therapeutic challenge due to comorbidities or the complexity of the mechanisms leading to its onset. Each patient needs an individual and often multidisciplinary approach, taking into account comorbidities and polypragmasia. In addition to emollient skincare — which is the basis of skin care — and topical anti-inflammatory preparations for inflammatory skin disorders, biologics are increasingly being used in the treatment of pruritus, as well as drugs with antidepressant and antiepileptic effects.

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