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Aging changes in the face

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The typical appearance of the face and neck changes with age. Muscle tone may be lost, causing a flabby or droopy appearance. The jowls may begin to sag, leading to a "double chin" in some people. In some people the nose lengthens slightly and may look more prominent.

There also may be an increase in the number, size, and color of colored spots on the face. This is largely due to sun exposure.

The skin may thin, become dryer, and develop wrinkles. Although wrinkles are inevitable to some extent, sun exposure and cigarette smoking are likely to make them develop faster.

The ears may lengthen slightly in some people (probably caused by cartilage growth). Some men may find that they develop hair in their ears that becomes longer, coarser, and more noticeable as they age.

Wax glands drop in number and activity, and ear wax becomes drier. This drier wax can more easily become impacted and block the ear canal, reducing your ability to hear.

The eyebrows and eyelashes become gray. The skin around the eyelids becomes loose and wrinkled, often making a "crow's feet" pattern. The eye socket loses some of its fat pads, making the eyes look sunken and limiting eye movement.

The lower eyelids may appear baggy, and drooping eyelids are fairly common, occasionally limiting vision. The outer surface of the eye (cornea) may develop a grayish-white ring called arcus corneus or arcus senilis.

The colored portion of the eye (iris) loses pigment, making most very elderly people appear to have gray or light blue eyes.

Loss of teeth can make the lips look shrunken. The jawbone loses bone material, reducing the size of the lower face. The forehead, nose, and mouth thus look more pronounced.

Gums may also recede, contributing to dental problems and changes in the appearance of the mouth.

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Review Date: 12/13/2010
Reviewed By: Michael Langan, M.D. Department of Geriatrics, Massachusetts General Hospital, Boston, MA. Review provided by VeriMed Healthcare Network. Also reviewed by David Zieve, MD, MHA, Medical Director, A.D.A.M., Inc.
The information provided herein should not be used during any medical emergency or for the diagnosis or treatment of any medical condition. A licensed medical professional should be consulted for diagnosis and treatment of any and all medical conditions. Call 911 for all medical emergencies. Links to other sites are provided for information only -- they do not constitute endorsements of those other sites. © 1997- A.D.A.M., Inc. Any duplication or distribution of the information contained herein is strictly prohibited.
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