Incontinence-associated dermatitis and pressure ulcers in geriatric patients

G Ital Dermatol Venereol. 2015 Dec;150(6):717-29. Epub 2015 Jul 17.


The key characteristics of geriatric patients are advanced age, multimorbidity, a decrease of psychical performance and care dependency. In addition, advanced age, chronic and acute diseases and treatments (e.g. polypharmacy) lead, either directly or indirectly, to a wide range of skin and tissue problems. Incontinence-associated dermatitis and pressure ulcers (PUs) belong to the most prevalent in geriatric settings. Prolonged exposure of the skin to urine and/or stool can cause an irritant contact dermatitis. Skin surface 'wetness', increased skin surface pH, digestive intestinal enzymes, repeated skin cleansing activities, and a possible occlusive environment contribute to irritation and inflammation. Prevention and treatment includes activities to maintain and to enhance continence and to limit, to reduce exposure of the skin to urine and stool, and to promote healing and reepithelialisation. In frail aged skin, it is recommended to use incontinence products with smooth and breathable materials with maximum absorption capacity. Immediate skin cleansing after soiling using mild cleansers and protective and caring leave-on products are recommended. PUs are localized injuries to the skin and/or underlying tissue caused by sustained deformations of skin and underlying soft tissues. PUs management includes risk assessment, repositioning and mobilization, and the use of appropriate support surfaces. Patients must be never positioned directly on an existing PU. Especially at end of life, the PU closure and wound healing may not be the primary therapeutic goal.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Aged
  • Baths / adverse effects
  • Baths / methods
  • Dermatitis, Irritant / epidemiology
  • Dermatitis, Irritant / etiology*
  • Dermatitis, Irritant / prevention & control
  • Dermatitis, Irritant / therapy
  • Diapers, Adult
  • Disease Management
  • Fecal Incontinence / complications*
  • Geriatrics / methods*
  • Humans
  • Hygiene
  • Immobilization / adverse effects
  • Patient Positioning
  • Pressure Ulcer / etiology
  • Pressure Ulcer / prevention & control*
  • Pressure Ulcer / therapy
  • Risk Factors
  • Severity of Illness Index
  • Skin Aging
  • Skin Care / methods
  • Skin Diseases, Infectious / etiology
  • Skin Diseases, Infectious / prevention & control
  • Urinary Incontinence / complications*
  • Wound Healing
  • Wound Infection / prevention & control