What Are Age Spots?

Age spots are also referred to as liver spots, sun spots, or lentigo. These are flat, tan, brown, or dark brown spots appearing on the body of aging people, especially on the back of their hands. But these also appear on forearms, neck, chest, legs, and face. Age spots are most commonly observed in people over fifty-five. Some senior citizens who tan extensively also develop age spots over the shoulders and back.

By their nature, age spots are collections of melanin (the dark natural pigment of the skin), in the uppermost layer of the skin, the epidermis. Melanin is produced by special cells in the skin called melanocytes. Age spots are flat and individual spots range in size from that of a small pea to a dime. They usually have round outlines and irregular borders. Age spots themselves are not malignant but they do increase the risk of skin cancer to some degree.

The most obvious cause of age spots is overexposure to sun. Prolonged exposure to sunlight activates the melanocytes to produce excess of melanin. Exposure to ultraviolet light is especially more likely to cause age spots. Other causes also play their role in forming age spots. These include poor diet (especially one that is rich in fats), lack of exercise or physical activity, poor liver function, and autointoxication.

Different approaches attempt to treat and remove age spots. Removal of these spots is based on the fact that they increase the risk of skin cancer, which, like age spots, is associated with overexposure to solar radiation. Some of these treatment methods include freezing, using acids, skin sanding, and using electric needles. Laser therapy is now being used with greater success than these methods because they laser targets the spots more precisely and does minimum damage to the skin. In addition, laser treatment is less painful and promises faster recovery.

For people with fair skin, bleaching solutions like hydroquinone are sometimes used for treating age spots. This chemical, however, causes irritation and reddening of the skin. Bleaching solutions kill melanin and, with time, this leads to fading of the age spots. Use of hydroquinone for treatment also necessitates that the treated skin area be protected completely from exposure to sun.

For people with darker skin, hydroquinone is not used. Instead, kojic acid is used as an alternative treatment formula. Vitamin C products and mandelic acid products are also used to treat age spots. Check with your doctor to find out more about preventing and removing age spots.

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