What are Age Spots

What are Age Spots, and What are the Causes?

Age spots can also be known as liver spots because people used to incorrectly assume that they were a sign of liver problems. The spots are light brown, dark brown, red or black in color. When people start to develop changes in their skin, they might worry about skin cancer. In most cases, these dark spots cause no problems. They can be small in size like a freckle or larger than half an inch in size.

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Types of Age Spots

Lentigines

These are the most common age spots. They are flat, light brown or tan spots that look like freckles when they are small. They can be larger than freckles too. Typically, the form in clusters where there's been serious sun exposure for a number of years.

Cherry Hemangiomas

These are small, red dots that can appear anywhere on the body. They are quite common and result from a growth of blood vessels. They are not a sign of skin cancer either, but anyone who is concerned about their appearance should see a physician.

Seborrheic Keratoses

While these spots can be the same color as the lentigines, which are flat, the spots are often raised and scaly. They can appear to be warts, but they aren't. Many people with these type of sun spots will see them in relatives too. The spots seem to be linked to family genetics.

Causes of Age Spots

As a person ages, the effects of long-term sun exposure become evident. The spots are evident due to the production of melanin. It can come from aging alone, ultraviolet light exposure and tanning. Age spots tend to appear in areas of the body that have seen the most exposure to the sun like the backs of the hands, shoulders, face and chest.

When to See a Physician

If you're worried about the appearance of age spots on your skin, you should see your doctor. Any spots on the skin can be a sign of a serious skin cancer known as melanoma. If you have any spots that change in appearance, they should be checked. If the spots change in color or have an irregular border, they should be evaluated. Any spots that are bleeding or itchy are a sign to see a physician too.

Age Spot Treatment

Medications

Although, you don't need to have age spots removed, many people find age spots unsightly and want them removed. In some cases, your doctor can prescribe bleaching creams to fade the spots over time. This can take several months. The creams usually contain hydroquinone, and the person should wear sunscreen to avoid serious UV sun damage. Your skin will become more sensitive when using the bleaching cream.

Procedures

There are a few procedures available for treating age spots. You can have laser treatment to remove the cells that produce the melanin, which is the reason for the dark color of the spots. There are chemical peels that will burn the cells and cause the body to produce new skin. Dermabrasion is another treatment for age spots. It sands off a layer of skin to cause the body to produce new cells. The last treatment is called cryosurgery. The age spots can be frozen with liquid nitrogen.

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