Chronic itch is common in the elderly patient and may be caused by a variety of known dermatologic and non-dermatologic conditions and can have a significant effect on quality of life. Age-related changes in barrier function, immunosenescence, and neuronal changes and neuropathies are common predisposing factors to chronic itch in this age group. Certain primary dermatologic conditions are more common in the elderly and can cause chronic itch. Also, co-morbid diseases particularly of the renal, hepatobiliary, or hematologic systems, psychologic conditions, or medications may contribute to chronic itch in this population. Thus, medical workup for an elderly patient with chronic itch requires special attention to the patient’s medical history, current health status, and medications. Topical treatments and emollients may be recommended for elderly patients, with consideration of specific adverse effects and alternatives. Systemic medications pose a higher risk of adverse effects and many are contraindicated in the elderly for this reason. In addition, management in the elderly may be complicated by differential pharmacokinetics of medications, the presence of co-morbid health conditions, cognitive disorders, physical limitations, and polypharmacy. New and emerging treatment modalities hold promise for use in the elderly due to these special considerations.
ASJC Scopus subject areas