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Skin spots: causes and cures

Bookmark and Share 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, chief 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." The culprit
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.