Known to most as “age spots” (lentigines, liver spots, or sun spots), the dark brown colored spots that begin to appear on the arms, hands, face and shoulders (the parts of the body most exposed to the sun) as we top the 40+ mark, and those usually associated with aging – are actually provoked by the sun. However, they are still one of the five main signs that show someone is getting older (the other four are: wrinkles [most acknowledged], enlarged skin pores, sagging skin, and spider veins).
– These types of spots are usually the result of a build-up of melanin pigment that is found in the skin (although caused by getting older [chronological aging] are actually caused by exposure to the sun). This factor is particularly dangerous, as under certain circumstances such spots can become malignant (cancerous).
There are two things that should be considered with age spots:
1. Treatment – There are different forms of treatment that can be used to help remove the effects of age spots. For example: chemical peels and skin lightening creams such as hydroquinone – through to laser and IPL treatments (intense pulsed light/photo-facial treatments). Laser and IPL treatments may require more than one session depending on how many, and where the spots are to be found on the body.
Such treatments may hurt while being applied, although the pain is quick to pass and found worthy by most patients (a slight tingling sensation may also be experienced after treatment). Recovery time from such treatments is usually less than 3-days (most patients are able to return to their normal activities just after treatment; however, direct sunlight should be avoided [spot removal is considered permanent]).
– Treatment methods will depend on whether the age spots are cancerous, or precancerous lesions (areas of tissue which have an abnormally rapid cell growth rate [not normally a cause for concern]).
2. Prevention – Although the sun does have certain properties that are beneficial to the skin – over exposure to it can actually cause damage (too much sun is the main reason for the development of skin cancer). The UVA and UVB light exposure (from the sun’s rays) damages the skin, thus causing the effects of aging (age spots), which in turn can develop into cancer. Therefore it is important to stay out of direct sunlight, and where possible use a suitable sun protector (when on the beach).
Note: Although this type of melanin pigment build-up is not usually dangerous – regular observation for changes, such as: color darkening, dryness, quick growth, and ragged edges to the spots, should be checked-out if apparent.
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