Monday, November 14, 2011

What Causes age spots?

When we ask yourself what Causes spots? you should ask your self about your age 

What Causes Age Spots? The sun does. The term ‘age spots’, or lentigines, refers to the brownish spots that, over time appear on your face and body as a result of overexposure to the sun. As we age our skin is subjected to more and more sun damage. Our skin has what is called ‘melanin pigment’ which absorbs sunlight and helps naturally protect our skin from UV rays. However as we age, our skin's natural ability to fend off UV rays from the sun begins to deteriorate, and as a result, we see the development of age spots. These age spots can be effectively treated with laser.

What is Happening in the Skin?

There are a couple different types of brown spots that people get on their skin. There are solar lentigos (age spots) and freckles (known as ephiledes). These come from the sun and that's because the sun damages the melanocytes, which are the cells in the epidermis (the skin's surface layer) that produce melanin pigment. Most of the cells in our epidermis are skin cells that form the dead skin layer as well as keratin that protects us from the outside world, but one in every tenth or twentieth cell is a melanocyte which produces melanin pigment and transfers this brown pigment to our skin cells to help protect us against the sun. Some people, like me, have almost no melanin pigment and our skin does not do a good job of protecting us from the sun. Dark-skinned people do a much better job of protecting themselves from the sun. When the sun attacks me and other light-skinned people, my body does not know how to respond properly. As a result it can cause abnormal melanin pigment in the form of freckles and brown spots.

Sun Spot is More Accurate

‘Age Spots’ actually have nothing to do with how old you are, they have to do with how long you've been in the sun. I prefer the term ‘sun spot’ rather than ‘liver spot’ or ‘age spot’ because that is what they are from and is more appropriate.

Are they Cancerous?

The most important thing if you see any pigmented lesion on your skin is to not assume that it’s benign. If you notice a lesion on your skin, especially if it has any changes in color or shape, you should see a dermatologist to determine if they are cancerous or something to be concerned about. You may need to have a biopsy performed to determine if the lesion is benign or not. Once the doctor has determined that it is benign, there are a variety of lasers that can be used to improve or remove it.

Does Tanning Cause Age Spots?

Tan skin is not healthy skin. A tan is our body’s way of telling us our skin has been damaged, and its attempt to protect itself from further damage. As we undergo UVA and UVB light exposure from the sun’s rays or from tanning beds, we are damaging our skin, which will lead to age spots (solar lentigines), sun spots, liver spots, poikiloderma (reddish–brown areas of discoloration) and melasma (mottled brownish areas).

Prevention is Possible

Preventing age spots requires sun avoidance and sun protection. Most of the sun damage we receive occurs while we are driving. Car window glass protects us from 100% of the UVB light (the light which causes a burn) but none of the UVA, the light responsible for sun damage and aging skin. I advise all of my patients to have UVA-protecting film installed on their car windows. This may be tinted or clear. This will help prevent much of the sun damage which causes age, liver, or brown spots.

Sunscreen All Day, Every Day

The second thing I recommend is to wear sunscreen ALL THE TIME. Even if you already have sun damaged skin, it’s never too late to start. This will help prevent further damage and age spotting.

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