Age Spots

Age spots, also known as brown spots, liver spots and solar lentigines, are a common sign of aging. Flat, oval areas of pigmentation, age spots tend to appear on parts of the body, such as the face, hands, arms, shoulders and feet, that are exposed to the sun. Most common in people older than 40, they can be freckle-sized or more than a half-inch in length, and range in color from light brown to black. When age spots are grouped together, they appear even larger.

Causes of Age Spots

Age spots, also known as brown spots, liver spots and solar lentigines, are a common sign of aging. Flat, oval areas of pigmentation, age spots tend to appear on parts of the body, such as the face, hands, arms, shoulders and feet, that are exposed to the sun. Most common in people older than 40, they can be freckle-sized or more than a half-inch in length, and range in color from light brown to black. When age spots are grouped together, they appear even larger.

Diagnosis of Age Spots

True age spots are harmless and do not require treatment. If what is thought to be an age spot appears irregular, however, a biopsy may be performed to ensure that it is not malignant. Spots with the following characteristics should be evaluated by a physician:

  • Dark pigmentation
  • Unusual combination of colors
  • Rapidly increasing in size

In addition, spots that are itchy, red or sensitive, or that bleed, should be checked for malignancy.

Treatment Options for Age Spots

Although age spots are not medically dangerous, many people who develop them find them aesthetically unappealing. Treatments to remove age spots or make them less prominent include the following:

  • Liquid nitrogen (cryotherapy)
  • Bleaching creams
  • Microdermabrasion
  • Laser skin resurfacing
  • Chemical peels

Treatment of age spots is considered strictly cosmetic, so insurance companies typically do not cover procedures to remove them.

Prevention of Age Spots

To prevent age spots or keep them from worsening, avoiding prolonged sun exposure and regularly using a broad-spectrum (UVA and UVB) sunscreen is recommended. Wearing UV-blocking clothing and a broad-brimmed hat will provide additional protection.

Sun Damage

Long term and repeated exposure to sunlight, especially ultraviolet light, can cause a variety of cosmetic and medical problems related to the skin, commonly referred to as sun damage. Sun damage can affect any area of the skin as a result of excessive exposure to the ultraviolet (UV) rays of the sun. Sun damage most commonly occurs on the face, hands and arms, and may lead to sun spots, age spots, rough skin and wrinkles. Years of sun exposure can also lead to premature aging and skin cancer. Some individuals may notice skin lesions that are a form of actinic keratosis, which is is a precancerous skin condition that develops from years of sun exposure.

The best treatment against sun damage is preventing it from occurring in the first place. It is important to wear sunscreen on a daily basis and avoid excessive exposure to the sun, especially during mid-day hours when the sun is strongest. Additional ways to prevent sun damage include:

  • Always wear sun screen with an SPF of at least 15
  • Wear a hat in the sun
  • Wear long sleeves and long pants
  • Avoid tanning beds and salons

Once sun damage has occurred, there are options available to cosmetically improve damage that has already been suffered. Injectable fillers such as collagen help to fill out lines and wrinkles to give the skin a fuller, smoother look and feel. Phototherapy can reduce the appearance of uneven pigmentation and laser treatments may also be effective for these conditions. Chemical peels and microdermabrasion soften and rejuvenate the skin by removing old and dead layers of skin cells. This helps to promote new growth and enhanced texture of the skin. resulting in a noticeable renewal of the skin.

Individuals that notice any suspicious growths or skin patches should immediately consult with a doctor, as early detection is extremely important in treating any forms of skin cancer that may have developed as a result of sun damage.

Sunscreen

Sun damage can affect any area of the skin as a result of long-term exposure to the ultraviolet (UV) rays of the sun. Sun damage most commonly occurs on the face, hands and arms, and may lead to sun spots, age spots, rough skin and wrinkles. Years of sun exposure can also lead to premature aging and skin cancer. Because of the damaging effects of the sun, adequate protection is essential in maintaining the long-term health of the skin, especially in the summer months.

In addition to avoiding the sun during peak hours and wearing protective clothing, sunscreen is one of the best defenses against the harmful rays of the sun. Sunscreen protects the skin against harmful UV rays and should be applied to the skin before engaging in any kind of outdoor activity.

It is important to choose a sunscreen that provides protection from all UV rays of the sun. UVA rays can prematurely age the skin, causing wrinkles and age spots and UVB rays can burn the skin. Too much exposure to UVA or UVB rays can cause skin cancer. The best sunscreen offers protection from all UV light. Sunscreens that provide protection from all types of UV rays are often advertised as broad-spectrum coverage. It is also important to choose a sunscreen with a sun protection factor (SPF) of at least 15, which refers to the amount of time it takes the skin to react to the sun as opposed to unprotected skin.

To ensure that sunscreen provides the best protection from the sun, is beneficial to remember the following:

  • Apply generous amounts of sunscreen to the skin
  • Apply sunscreen at least 30 minutes prior to going outdoors
  • Reapply sunscreen at least every two hours
  • Reapply sunscreen after swimming or heavy perspiration
  • Apply sunscreen even when it is cloudy

With regular sunscreen use, people can reduce their risk of skin cancer, age spots, burns, premature aging and other forms of sun damage.

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