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What are Age Spots?

Sun Spots

Age spots are typically flat brown spots that appear on the surface of the skin in places that are frequently exposed to the sun

What Are Age Spots? Age spots are typically flat brown spots that appear on the surface of the skin in places that are frequently exposed to the sun. They often appear on the shoulders, arms, hands and face in adults over the age of 40, but they can affect younger people as well. In most cases, they are harmless and only of cosmetic concern. Though they can be removed or lightened, the best way to maintain youthful looking skin is to prevent dark spots on the skin by limiting sun exposure and using sunscreen.

What Causes Age Spots?

Dark spots on the skin are mainly caused by frequent exposure to ultraviolet, or UV, light. This exposure may occur as the result of spending a lot of time in the sun or through the use of tanning beds and lights. When the skin is exposed to UV light, the production of melanin, the pigment that gives skin its usual color, speeds up to darken the outer layer of skin to protect the deeper layers. In time, the melanin can form in high concentrations in specific spots. This results in age spots that are usually brown in color. In addition to sun exposure, spots can also occur when melanin production increases due to aging. Genetics also play a role in determining how susceptible an individual is to developing dark spots on the skin.

What Treatments are Available?

In most cases, brown spots on the skin are not a sign of a more serious condition. In rare instances, however, they may be cancerous. As a result, it is important to seek medical attention for any dark spots that have an unusual texture or appearance. Doctors can usually diagnose an age spot through a visual examination, but if there is any doubt as to whether it may be cancerous, other tests, such a biopsy, may be performed. Any spots that are proven to be cancerous usually need to be removed surgically.

Age spots that are purely cosmetic do not require treatment, but many patients opt to have age spots lightened or removed. Topical creams and mild steroids can sometimes fade them over the course of several months. Laser therapy can be used to destroy the cells that produce melanin which eventually causes the spots to fade. Other procedures such as dermabrasion or chemical peels may also be utilized to remove the outer layer of the skin to get rid of dark spots.

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