Caring for your skin

You wouldn’t neglect your heart, so why neglect your skin, when infected or damaged skin can be life-threatening? MARISKA MORRIS investigates some common skin conditions and cures.

The integumentary system, which includes skin, hair, nails, glands and nerve receptors, is the largest organ in the body. Skin weighs around two kilograms and sheds once every 27 days, Kim Ann Zimmermann writes for the Live Science website. Skin is a waterproof cushion for the body that protects against viruses and injury.

Just as neglecting cardiovascular organs can lead to serious heart disease, neglecting the skin can cause serious infections – some even life-threatening. “Sores can easily become infected and may channel into deeper levels of muscle and bone,” according to the website of the Shepherd Center, an American rehabilitation centre.

One of the most common skin conditions for wheelchair users is pressure sores. The United Spinal Association notes that up to 80 percent of people with a spinal cord injury will develop a pressure sore at some point during their life. An untreated pressure sore could infect the blood stream and become life-threatening.

These sores are caused by a lack of blood flow to an area, the skin of which then breaks down. Wheelchair users are more susceptible to pressure sores as they are unable to feel any discomfort in their legs and might be unaware a pressure sore is forming.

If a sore develops, keep pressure off of the specific area and consult a doctor.

Maceration wounds are caused by lengthy exposure to moisture such as urine, sweat and wound drainage, which makes the skin soft and more susceptible to damage. To avoid these, simply stay dry. Wheelchair users with bowel complications should follow a routine. If, for example, a bowel or bladder accident happens, clean and dry the skin immediately. Wear light materials to avoid sweating or the build-up of sweat.

The best preventive measure, however, is practising good skincare. TENA, a leading specialist and manufacturer of products for urinary incontinence, has a three-in-one skincare and cleansing range, which has been developed especially for fragile and sensitive skin.

The TENA Wash Cream, Wet Wipes and Skin Cream (R50 each) can be bought from any leading retailer, pharmacy or from the TENA online store at These products have a low pH and are suitable for all skin types.

Focus Products offers a dry-wound care product called Vita Vallis.

“It uses the positive (dressing)/negative (wound) energy, which draws the effluent to the surface while the wound heals from the inside. This action reduces pain-caused infections,” says Pam Cohen of Focus Products.

The product is available at a number of outlets, including Ackermans Pharmacy, Primrose, Johannesburg; City Medical Pretoria West, Springbok Pharmacy, Alberton, Johannesburg; and Thusanang Enabling Services in Edenvale. The price may vary depending on the outlet and will soon be available through QASA.

In addition to these skin conditions, look for any bumps, bruises, cuts or burns. If untreated, any wound or serious skin condition can lead to serious complications. Perform regular checks and remember: always consult a doctor or dermatologist about serious skin conditions.

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