What are Sun Spots on Skin?
Sun pots are dark spots on the skin caused by prolonged exposure of the skin under the sun. Sun spots are also called lentigines, liver spots, or age spots. These dark spots often appear at the age of 40 because of prolonged exposure to the sun, however, younger people may also have it.
Sun spots often do not cause serious problems, but cause unpleasant view especially when they occur on the skin on the face. Common concern especially of women is the reduced aesthetic appearance of the face or the skin because of sun spots.
Sun spots are dark spots that are usually flat and oval shaped, but some may be irregular in shape. Sun spots are usually dark brown in color and they appear on exposed areas on the body such as the hands, shoulders, face, upper back and top of the feet. The size of sun spots resembles freckles, but others may be larger and may clump together, which appear as a big dark spot on the skin.
More severe forms of sun spots are sun keratoses, which appear reddened, flaky, crusty or scaly areas of skin. Sun keratoses are considered warning signs of skin cancer because these spots may eventually lead to squamous cell carcinoma, a skin malignancy. The incidence of sunspots turning into malignant cells is little comprising to only 10% of the cases.
Spots normally do not grow in size and are not painful, however, when they turn red, scaly, thickened, bleeds easily, tender or painful and grows rapidly, it can be an indication of possible skin cancer.
When this occurs, diagnostic tests such as biopsy are needed to detect the presence of skin cancer. In the absence of pre-cancer indications, people with sun spots often do not consult any dermatologists thinking that they are normal. Sun spots are considered normal and part of aging, however, when further changes occur; it may be a sign of a more serious condition that needs treatment.
Sun Spots on Face
What Causes Sun Spots on Skin?
Sun spots appear on the skin due to:
- Prolonged sun exposure - The harmful ultraviolet rays from the sun may cause changes on the skin leading to hyper pigmentation.
- Fungal infection - An infection from tinea versicolor causes the darkening of the skin for light-skinned individuals and lighter pigmentations for darker individuals.
- Overuse of tanning booths - Tanning booths also uses ultraviolet light for skin tanning just like what the sun emits. Prolonged or frequent use of these tanning booths may eventually lead to dark spots or sun spots.
Risk factors for developing sun spots include being fair-skinned because of the lack of adequate melanin to protect the skin from the harmful rays of the sun, not using sun protection when going out, and always outdoors between 10 am and 3 pm. These times are more dangerous for the skin because the sun is very up in the sky and emits more UV rays.
How to Get Rid of Sun Spots on Skin?
Once sun spots appeared, it can be effectively removed or lessened. These tips are the most common suggestions of dermatologists for eliminating sun spots:
- Laser therapy - Laser therapy uses a beam of light that removes the dark spots from the skin. This is non-invasive and not painful at all. It also produces significant results even after the first treatment. Laser therapy requires successive treatments to fully eradicate the sun spots.
- Cryotherapy - Cryotherapy involves the use of very cold substances to freeze the pigment and totally remove it from the skin.
- Chemical peels - These techniques use chemicals such as isotretinoin to peel the sun spots away. It is important to stay away from the sun when chemical peels are used because it may lead to burns when the skin is exposed in the sun. Overuse of chemical peels may also lead to increased risk for sun pots because of inadequate protection of the skin.
- Dermabrasion - This uses abrasive materials or substances to carefully scrape away the outer lining of the skin removing the sun spots that appeared on it. Dermabrasion are considered safer than chemical peels, but may cost higher.
- Whitening creams and ointments - The use of creams and ointments are also an excellent way to remove sun spots and are significantly cheaper than the previous therapies. However, results are not as fast as the surgeries or peeling techniques and may require extended application of the topical medications. Significant results are usually observed after 4 weeks of continued use.
- Anti-fungal creams - Sun spots caused by fungi are treated by anti-fungal creams to totally eradicate the causative agent. Anti-fungal creams are used longer because fungi tend to reoccur.
Prevention of Sun Spots on Skin
Prevention is the best way to manage sun spots and prevent the occurrence of skin cancers. The most common prevention for sun spots include:
- Apply sunscreen, which is SPF 15 or higher to protect the skin from the harmful UV rays of the sun
- Wear protective gadgets such as hats, umbrellas and sunglasses when going out under the sun.
- Avoid going out under the sun during the most intense radiation of UV light, which is from 10 am to 3 pm.
- Wear protective clothing like long sleeves, pants, shirts rather than going out in sleeveless tanks or other clothes that tend to expose more of the skin.
Sun spots should not be dreaded, but care and preventive measures should be instituted to prevent more serious cases of skin cancer.
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