What Is Skin Turgor and What Can It Tell You?
This article will look at skin turgor, the possible causes of decreased skin turgor, and what happens during skin turgor tests. It will also explain what typical skin turgor is and why older adults develop poor skin turgor.
Skin turgor refers to your skin’s elasticity — how quickly it returns back to its usual shape after being pulled or pinched.
To perform a skin turgor test, a medical professional will pinch the skin between two fingers so that it tents up, then let it go.
Skin with typical turgor will quickly snap back to its regular position. In skin with less turgor, skin tenting will remain, and the skin will take longer to return to its usual shape.
Dehydration is the primary cause of decreased skin turgor. Some other conditions that affect the skin can also reduce elasticity.
Clinicians can use skin turgor as an indicator of how severely you are dehydrated:
|Dehydration level||Fluid loss as % of body weight||Skin turgor|
|mild||less than 5%||typical, with instant response|
|moderate||between 5–9%||slightly decreased response time|
|severe (shock)||10% or greater||significantly delayed response time|
Ehlers-Danlos syndrome (EDS) is a genetic condition that affects connective tissue. This can cause hyperextensibility in the skin. Hyperextensibility means the skin can stretch more than 0.6 inches (in), or 1.5 centimeters (cm), when you gently pull it.
Because of this, doctors use the skin turgor test as part of the diagnosis for EDS.
Scleroderma is an autoimmune disorder that causes areas of scar-like tissue on the skin. This results in skin that becomes hardened and thickened.
If decreased skin turgor is mild and due to dehydration, treatment involves drinking more fluids.
If dehydration occurs as a result of another health condition, you may find it difficult to drink due to nausea or vomiting. In this case, starting with small sips can help you get used to drinking again. This will aid hydration and help your skin’s turgor return to its typical elasticity.
Regular hydration is vital to maintain good health and help prevent many health conditions. You can stay hydrated by drinking at least 6–8 glasses of water each day.
If decreased skin turgor results from another condition, such as scleroderma or EDS, your doctor can discuss treatments to help manage your symptoms.
Dehydration happens when your body does not have enough of the fluids it needs. This can happen if you do not consume enough fluids or you lose more fluids than you take in.
You may experience dehydration simply as a result of not drinking enough water.
Decreased skin turgor is just one symptom of fluid loss and dehydration. Other symptoms of mild to moderate dehydration include:
- dark yellow urine
- excessive thirst
- feeling dizzy, lightheaded, or tired
- dry mouth, lips, and eyes
- urinating fewer than 4 times per day
- in children, lack of tears when crying
- in infants, fewer than 6 wet diapers per day
Severe dehydration is a medical emergency that requires immediate treatment. Call 911 or local emergency services, or go to the emergency room, if poor skin turgor occurs with symptoms including:
Some groups of people are at higher risk for dehydration, per NHS Inform. This includes:
- older adults
- people with certain chronic conditions, such as diabetes
- athletes or other people who exercise for long periods of time
- people who work outdoors in hot weather
For people in these groups, contact your doctor or pediatrician for any symptoms of dehydration.
If mild to moderate symptoms of dehydration do not improve with home treatment, contact your doctor.
To test skin turgor, a doctor or other clinician will pinch an area of skin — often on your forearm or abdomen — between two of their fingers.
Skin with typical turgor will quickly return back to its usual shape. Skin with decreased turgor takes longer to go back to its regular position.
Here are some more frequently asked questions about skin turgor.
What is typical skin turgor time?
Typical skin turgor time is instant recall, when skin immediately returns back to its usual position after you or a health professional lets it go. Any delay in response is a sign of decreased skin turgor, which may indicate dehydration.
Where do elderly people get skin turgor?
Many older adults have reduced skin turgor due to the typical aging process. This can make it difficult to use a skin turgor test to determine whether an older adult is dehydrated.
For people in this age group, doctors recommend testing skin turgor over the sternum and on the forehead. These areas typically keep their natural skin turgor longer than others.
Your skin turgor is the elasticity of your skin. Doctors test skin turgor by gently grasping skin so that it is tented upward, then releasing it.
Healthy skin will rapidly return back to its usual position. Skin with decreased turgor will take longer to go back to its regular shape.
Home care involves drinking fluids to rehydrate your body. If symptoms do not improve, contact your doctor.