Sun Damage & Age Spots
Long term and repeated exposure to sunlight, especially ultraviolet light, can cause a variety of cosmetic and medical problems related to the skin, commonly referred to as sun damage. Sun damage can affect any area of the skin as a result of excessive exposure to the ultraviolet (UV) rays of the sun. Sun damage most commonly occurs on the face, hands and arms, and may lead to sun spots, age spots, rough skin and wrinkles. Years of sun exposure can also lead to premature aging and skin cancer. Some individuals may notice skin lesions that are a form of actinic keratosis, which is is a precancerous skin condition that develops from years of sun exposure.
The best treatment against sun damage is preventing it from occurring in the first place. It is important to wear sunscreen on a daily basis and avoid excessive exposure to the sun, especially during mid-day hours when the sun is strongest. Additional ways to prevent sun damage include:
- Always wear sun screen with an SPF of at least 15
- Wear a hat in the sun
- Wear long sleeves and long pants
- Avoid tanning beds and salons
Once sun damage has occurred, there are options available to cosmetically improve damage that has already been suffered. Injectable fillers such as collagen help to fill out lines and wrinkles to give the skin a fuller, smoother look and feel. Phototherapy can reduce the appearance of uneven pigmentation and laser treatments may also be effective for these conditions. Chemical peels and microdermabrasion soften and rejuvenate the skin by removing old and dead layers of skin cells. This helps to promote new growth and enhanced texture of the skin. resulting in a noticeable renewal of the skin.
Individuals that notice any suspicious growths or skin patches should immediately consult with a doctor, as early detection is extremely important in treating any forms of skin cancer that may have developed as a result of sun damage.
Age spots, also known as brown spots, liver spots and solar lentigines, are a common sign of aging. Flat, oval areas of pigmentation, age spots tend to appear on parts of the body, such as the face, hands, arms, shoulders and feet, that are exposed to the sun. Most common in people older than 40, they can be freckle-sized or more than a half-inch in length, and range in color from light brown to black. When age spots are grouped together, they appear even larger.
Causes Of Age Spots
Although age spots are usually caused by accumulated exposure to the sun’s ultraviolet (UV) light, they may also be the result of using tanning beds/lamps; trauma or injury; or genetic predisposition. People with light skin are more likely to develop age spots, as are those with a history of frequent sunburn or sun exposure.
Diagnosis Of Age Spots
True age spots are harmless and do not require treatment. If what is thought to be an age spot appears irregular, however, a biopsy may be performed to ensure that it is not malignant. Spots with the following characteristics should be evaluated by a physician:
- Dark pigmentation
- Unusual combination of colors
- Rapidly increasing in size
In addition, spots that are itchy, red or sensitive, or that bleed, should be checked for malignancy.
Treatment Options For Age Spots
Although age spots are not medically dangerous, many people who develop them find them aesthetically unappealing. Treatments to remove age spots or make them less prominent include the following:
- Liquid nitrogen (cryotherapy)
- Bleaching creams
- Laser skin resurfacing
- Chemical peels
Treatment of age spots is considered strictly cosmetic, so insurance companies typically do not cover procedures to remove them.
Prevention Of Age Spots
To prevent age spots or keep them from worsening, avoiding prolonged sun exposure and regularly using a broad-spectrum (UVA and UVB) sunscreen is recommended. Wearing UV-blocking clothing and a broad-brimmed hat will provide additional protection.