The medical term for age spots is solar lentigines. In most cases, age spots appear as small flat spots that are usually brown or black in colour.
They range in size from very small to more than half an inch in diameter. They may occur as a solitary spot or in groups.
Some age spots may resemble cancerous growths, however the vast majority of them are harmless and do not require any form of treatment.Age spots are caused by years of exposure to ultraviolet light from the sun.
Artificial forms of ultraviolet light such as tanning beds may also contribute to the development of age spots.
The pigment in the surface layers of the skin, which gives your skin its natural colour, is called melanin.
Ultraviolet light speeds up the body’s production of melanin.
On areas of your skin that have many years of exposure to sunlight, age spots may develop due to an increase of melanin concentrations.
Although anyone can develop age spots, people who have light skin and have a history of frequent or intense sunburns are at higher risk. In addition, people over the age of 50 are more likely to have age spots.
It is always good practice to consult with your doctor if you notice any new skin changes.
Spots or lesions that are darkly coloured, rapidly increasing in size, have irregular borders or have an unusual combination of colours should be evaluated by a doctor as soon as possible. Your doctor can usually diagnose age spots by visually inspecting your skin.
If your family doctor thinks the spots looks suspicious, they will likely perform a skin biopsy in which a small sample of your skin will be sent for microscopic analysis.
Depending on the results of the skin biopsy, your doctor may or may not refer you to a dermatologist, a doctor who specializes in skin conditions.
Many people do not like the appearance of age spots. As such, there are several treatment options available. Prescription bleaching creams and chemical peels may help to reduce the appearance of age spots. Laser and light therapy are another option.
This type of treatment consists of pulsing intense light over the age spot, which destroys the cells that produce melanin.
Finally, dermabrasion is another popular treatment in which the surface of the skin is sanded down with a rotating brush.
It is important to know that age spot treatments are often considered to be cosmetic in nature. Thus, many insurance companies will not cover the cost.
Here are a few prevention tips to keep in mind: Try to avoid exposure to the sun’s rays during the early afternoons when they are most intense. Schedule outdoor activities during the early morning and later in the evening.
Use a sunscreen with an SPF factor of at least 30. It is important to apply sunscreen liberally, and re-apply every two hours.
Finally, cover up exposed skin as much as possible.
Until next month, drive safely!
Dr. Christopher H. Singh runs Trans Canada Chiropractic at the 230 Truck Stop in Woodstock, Ont. He can be reached at 519-421-2024.