The skin is the largest organ of the human body, but it is often forgotten. The function of healthy skin is to act as a barrier against chemical, physical and mechanical hazards, and invasion from bacteria, fungai, viruses and allergens (Proksch et al, 2008). In healthy individuals, the skin is strong, resilient and has a remarkable capacity for repair (Wounds UK, 2018).
Over your life there may be times your skin is at higher risk for issues developing, which will put you at risk for the development of skin problems. These can occur:
- Very early in life (when the skin is not fully mature),
- If you have dermatological or other systemic and chronic diseases,
- If you are at advanced age,
- At the end of life.
The International Skin Tear Advisory Panel (ISTAP) recognised a need for information that focused on the shared risk factors and preventative strategies for common skin conditions with increased skin vulnerability (Beeckman D et al 2020):
- Skin tears
- Pressure ulcers
- Moisture-associated skin damage (MASD)
- Skin changes at end of life.
‘Skin frailty’ is the suggested umbrella term for at-risk, vulnerable skin.
It is important not to confuse skin frailty with overall ‘frailty’. Skin frailty can have many potential causes and be the result of the cumulative effect of a combination of factors (Moncrieff et al, 2015).
So what can you do to prevent problems?
This blog post was written by Karen E Campbell, PhD, NSWOC, RN
Nurse consultant for EO2.
What is NSWOC? A nurse specialized in wound, ostomy, continence, and Canadian Nurses Association certification
Beeckman D et al (2020) Best practice recommendations for holistic strategies to promote and maintain skin integrity. Wounds International.
Moncrieff G, Van Onselen J, Young T (2015). The role of emollients in maintaining skin integrity. Wounds UK 11(1):68-74
Proksch E, Brandner JM, Jensen JM (2008) The skin: an indispensable barrier. Exp Dermatol 17(12): 1063-72
Wounds UK (2018) Best practice statement: Maintaining skin integrity. Available online at: https://www.wounds-uk.com/resources/details/ maintaining-skin-integrity (accessed 31.7.2020)