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Wrinkles

Definition

Wrinkles are creases in the skin. They are also called rhytids.

Considerations

Most wrinkles come from aging changes in skin. Aging of the skin, hair and nails is a natural process. There is little you can do to slow down the rate of skin aging, but many things in the environment will speed it up.

Frequent exposure to sunlight results in early skin wrinkles and dark areas (liver spots). It also increases the chances of getting skin cancer. Exposure to cigarette smoke can also make the skin wrinkle sooner.

Causes

Common causes of wrinkles include:

  • Genetic factors (family history)
  • Normal aging changes in the skin
  • Smoking
  • Sun exposure

Home Care

Stay out of the sun as much as possible to limit skin wrinkles. Wear hats and clothing that protect your skin and use sunscreen when you are outside. Avoid smoking cigarette and passive smoking.

When to Contact a Medical Professional

Wrinkles are not usually a cause for concern unless they occur at an early age. Talk to your health care provider if you think that your skin is getting wrinkled faster than normal for someone your age. You may need to see a skin specialist (dermatologist) or a plastic surgeon.

What to Expect at Your Office Visit

Your health care provider will ask questions, such as:

  • When did you first notice that your skin seemed more wrinkled than normal?
  • Has it changed in any way?
  • Has a skin spot become painful or does it bleed?
  • What other symptoms are you having?

Your provider will examine your skin. You may need a skin lesion biopsy if you have any abnormal growths or skin changes.

These are some treatments for wrinkles:

  • Tretinoin (Retin-A) or creams containing alpha-hydroxy acids
  • Chemical peels or laser resurfacing work well for early wrinkles
  • Creams with growth factors may make fine lines and wrinkles look better
  • Botulinum toxin (Botox) may be used to correct some of the wrinkles that are caused by overactive facial muscles
  • Plastic surgery for age-related wrinkles (for example, a facelift)

References

Habif TM. Light-related diseases and disorders of pigmentation. In: Habif TP, ed. Clinical Dermatology. 5th ed. Philadelphia, PA: Elsevier Mosby; 2009:chap 19.

Rohrer TE, Wesley NO, Glogau R, et al. Cosmetic surgery. In: Bolognia JL, Jorizzo JL, Schaffer JV, et al, eds. Dermatology. 3rd ed. Philadelphia, PA: Elsevier Mosby; 2012:chap 152.


Review Date: 12/2/2014
Reviewed By: Richard J. Moskowitz, MD, dermatologist in private practice, Mineola, NY. Review provided by VeriMed Healthcare Network. Also reviewed by David Zieve, MD, MHA, Isla Ogilvie, PhD, and the A.D.A.M. Editorial team.
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