Age spots, also called liver spots are flat, brown or black discolorations that appear on the face, hands or arms. They are caused by exposure to the sun over many years and are also called solar lentigines. Age spots are common in those of us over the age of 40.
Age spots can vary in size from that of a freckle to almost a half inch across. Sometimes they are a cause for concern if they appear to look like a cancerous growth. However, true age spots are harmless and are only treated for cosmetic reasons.
The color of the age spots comes from excess melanin that is produced by frequent exposure to the sun’s UV light rays. That is why age spots are more likely to occur in areas that receive more sun.
Discovery Fit and Health says that genetics also play a role so the tendency to develop age spots occurs in families.
To prevent age spots, you have to follow many of the same precautions we have been told for years that generally protect our skin from the sun.
- Avoid the sun during the most intense times of the day between 10 a.m. and 4 p.m.
- Wear sunscreen above a 30 SPF, apply it at least 30 min before going outside.
- Reapply sunscreen often if you are outside for longer periods of time.
- Make sure to apply sunscreen to your hands and neck.
- Wear clothes to block the sun from your skin as well as wearing a hat when outdoors to protect your face.
Another precaution Discovery Fit and Health mentioned is to have the windows in your car treated with either clear or tinted UV protecting film to block the damaging rays of the sun.
Glass does not block all the UV rays and people get a fair amount of sun exposure driving their cars. Some people have even suggested wearing gloves when you drive to protect your hands from the sun.
When to see a doctor
If you have any concern that the age spot could be a precancerous lesion, see a dermatologist to exam the area. This is especially important if the spot has changed in color, shape or has redness or bleeding.
The Mayoclinic.com states that there are a few skin lesions that can be mistaken for age spots.
Moles sometimes appear flat and dark colored like age spots, but typically occur anywhere on the body, not just sun-exposed places.
Seborrheic keratoses are also darkly colored but have more of a wart like appearance.
Lentigo maligna melanoma is a type of skin cancer that also occurs in areas that receive much sun exposure. These lesions tend to have an irregular border, uneven color and can be slightly raised.
The doctor will decide if a skin biopsy is needed.
If he confirms that the spot is an age spot, he can help guide you on possible treatments if you want to lighten them. The pros and cons of these treatments will be reviewed in the next article.
Age Spots. Discovery Fit & Health. Retrieved Sept. 27, 2012.
Age spots (liver spots)By Mayo Clinic staff. Retrieved Sept. 27, 2012.
Liver spots - All Information. University of Maryland Medical Center (UMMC). Retrieved Sept. 27, 2012.
Michele is an R.N. freelance writer with a special interest in woman’s healthcare and quality of care issues. Other articles by Michele are at www.helium.com/users/487540/show_articles
Edited by Jody Smith