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Wrinkles

Alternate Names

  • rhytids

Definition

Skin wrinkles are grooves in the skin. Wrinkles can be on the surface of the skin or can be quite deep.

What is going on in the body?

Skin loses its strength and elasticity, or ability to stretch, as a person ages. This makes the skin less able to smooth out, which is thought to be part of the cause of wrinkles and skin sagging seen in the elderly. Sun exposure also contributes to the development of wrinkles.

Risks

What are the causes and risks of the symptom?

A number of factors can cause wrinkles, including the following:
  • loss of elasticity with age
  • sun damage
  • repeated facial movements, such as frowning
  • natural effects of gravity, which cause sagging of the skin as a person ages
People at highest risk for wrinkles include:
  • fair-skinned people
  • people who spend a lot of time in the sun
  • people who have family members with a lot of wrinkles

Prevention

What can be done to prevent the symptom?

Wrinkles due to normal aging cannot be prevented. An individual can lower the risk of wrinkles by avoiding excess exposure to the sun.

Diagnosed

How is the symptom diagnosed?

Wrinkles are diagnosed by their characteristic appearance.

Long Term Effects

What are the long-term effects of the symptom?

Wrinkles have no long-term effects.

Other Risks

What are the risks to others?

Wrinkles are not contagious and pose no risk to others.

Treatments

What are the treatments for the symptom?

Wrinkles do not need to be treated unless the person wishes to eliminate them for cosmetic reasons. For fine wrinkles, retinoic acid may be applied to the skin to fill in the crevices.
Wrinkles may also be treated by a number of procedures, such as the following:
  • topical creams and ointments, such as tretinoin (i.e., Avita, Renova, Retin-A) or alphahydroxyl acids (AHAs), which peel off top layers of skin
  • chemical peels to remove wrinkled layers, such as the application of lactic, glycolic, or salicylic acids
  • dermabrasion, a procedure that sands away the top layers of skin
  • injection of substances such as fat or collagen, which is a gelatin-like substance, under the skin
  • laser surgery, which removes layers of skin. This procedure is used especially for wrinkles around the eyes.
  • botulinum toxin (i.e., Botox), which is used for wrinkles between the eyebrows and around the eyes. The toxin is injected into the muscle that caused the wrinkle. It paralyzes the muscle, so that the wrinkles gradually disappear when the muscle is not used.

Side Effects

What are the side effects of the treatments?

The more likely the treatment is to help wrinkling, the more likely it is to have side effects. Side effects can include:
  • color changes in the skin
  • redness
  • skin scarring
Topical products can cause irritation that looks and feels like chapping. Injectable substances can cause allergic reactions.

After Treatment

What happens after treatment for the symptom?

Sometimes the treatment for wrinkles results in skin that looks markedly smoother and younger. Other times, improvement of the wrinkles can be minimal and temporary.

Monitor

How is the symptom monitored?

Any new or worsening symptoms should be reported to the healthcare professional.

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