Skin spots: causes and cures
If you've got freckles where there weren't any before,
chances are they're not freckles. They're probably
age spots, also known as liver spots or sun spots.
Age spots, or lentignies, are flat, oval blemishes that
appear on skin after years of sun exposure.
"There are many types of splotches and spots that
emerge as we age," says Bennett Schwartz, MD
of dermatology at Virtua West Jersey Hospitals.
"Although age spots are usually harmless, the only
way to be sure is to have them evaluated by your
family physician or dermatologist. Spots that have
an irregular shape, that change in size or color, or
feel scaly are especially concerning."
Age spots are caused by cumulative sun damage.
Years of sun exposure can cause the skin's melanin,
the brown pigment that gives skin its color, to
overproduce and leave deposits. Age spots typically
occur on the face, hands, shoulders and upper back - areas that receive the most sun. They are very
common in people over age 40, but can appear in
younger people as well.
Shedding your spots
Age spots do not require treatment. But, if you
dislike the appearance, there are ways to lighten
or remove them. To find the best treatment for you,
discuss the following options and their side effects
with your dermatologist.
- Prescription bleaching creams: fade spots over
time and are particularly effective on lighter spots
- Laser therapy: destroys dark spots without
damaging the skin's surface - several sessions
are usually required
- A freezing procedure using liquid nitrogen to
destroy the skin's extra pigment: most effective
for a single spot or small grouping
- Dermabrasion: removes the surface layer of the
skin and allows a new layer to grow in its place
Still, prevention is the best cure. Dr. Schwartz
recommends applying sun block with an SPF of 30
or greater everyday - even in the winter months.