Skin turgor refers to the elasticity of your skin. When you pinch the skin on your arm, for example, it should spring back into place with a second or two. Having poor skin turgor means it takes longer for your skin to return to its usual position.
It’s often used as a way to check for dehydration. If you’re dehydrated, you may have poor skin turgor.
They main way to test skin turgor is to lightly pinch your skin, usually on your arm or abdomen. If it takes longer than usual for the skin to bounce back, it could be a sign of dehydration. However, this method isn’t very precise.
With age, your skin loses elasticity, causing poor skin turgor. As a result, an older person’s skin may take 20 seconds to return to normal, even if they aren’t dehydrated. In addition, a 2015 review found that skin turgor wasn’t very effective on its own for detecting dehydration in people over 65.
While it’s not very precise, testing skin turgor is painless and noninvasive. This makes it a good option for checking children for signs of dehydration. However, a concluded that it’s only moderately accurate at detecting hydration levels in children, so doctors will often use additional tests.
Poor skin turgor is caused by dehydration. In addition to not drinking enough water, several other things can cause dehydration, including:
- heat exhaustion
- weight loss
- low blood plasma (hypovolemia)
- some connective tissue conditions, such as scleroderma and Ehlers-Danlos syndrome
Keep in mind that infants, children, and older adults are more likely to become dehydrated if they don’t drink enough fluids.
Is there a standardized way to describe skin turgor?
How one describes or charts skin turgor differs based on the facility. It may be described using a variety of terms, such as normal/abnormal, tenting/no tenting, sluggish/brisk, elastic/inelastic, good/poor, and so on. The facility will often dictate what should be used by placing their own description on a form.Cynthia Cobb, APRNAnswers represent the opinions of our medical experts. All content is strictly informational and should not be considered medical advice.
Most cases of poor skin turgor just require rehydration. Mild dehydration usually resolves after you drink some water. However, more severe cases may need intravenous fluids. Some children find it easier to tolerate nasogastric fluid therapy, which delivers fluids though a tube that goes through your nose.
If you’re dehydrated due to vomiting, your doctor might also prescribe anti-emetic medication, which can help with nausea and vomiting.
Skin turgor is a simple measurement of your skin’s elasticity. Doctors sometimes use it to test for signs of dehydration, especially in children. However, as you age, your skin turgor decreases, so it’s not a very precise tool for older adults.