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Age Spots: Symptoms, Causes, Diagnosis, Treatments, Prevention

Editor's Note: This article has been recently updated with latest information and research studies.

The skin is the largest organ of the human body. AS the largest organ, it is exposed to a lot of damaging substances such as chemical products and ultra violet rays from the sun. In particular, ultra violet rays are to blame for a wide variety of skin problems and conditions that humans experience today. These rays have damaging effects on skin cells. One of the most common condition that is as a direct result of exposure to the sun is the occurrence of age spots.

Age spots are blemishes or marks that appear on the skin of individuals above the age of forty. As one gets older the skin losses its ability to create new cells after skin cells are damaged or reach their lifespan. Thus, even if cells are destroyed by the sun, they are not replaced. This is what leads to age spots.

Signs and Symptoms of Age Spots

Age spots are quite easy to notice as they develop. They will appear as oval and flat marks on the skin. You should be especially observant when it comes to parts of the skin that are exposed to the sun for long periods of time such as the shoulders and arms. Dry and rough skin patches can also be a sign if developing age spots. Finally, you should be on the lookout for translucent looking skin that is thinner than normal.

Where Do Age Spots Appear?

The arms, upper back, shoulders, chest and the face are areas that are in exposed to the sun’s ultraviolet rays. Therefore, these regions are more likely to get age spots than other areas of the skin. Subsequently, these are the parts that should be protected from harmful solar exposure.

Who is Most likely to Get Age Spots?

As mentioned earlier, age spots are as a result of the loss of the skin’s ability to regenerate. This happens with old age. Thus, older people are at a higher risk of getting age spots than any other age group. Generally, it has been observed that the lowest age at which one can get age spots is forty.

What Can Cause Age Spots?

The biggest cause of age spots is the sun. When ultra violet rays strike our skin, they pass through and destroy the skin cells below. In a young person, the skin quickly creates new cells to replace the destroyed ones. This is however not the case with older individuals. Prolonged and unprotected exposure to the sun is the major reason why age spots occur.

What Role Do Age Spots Fill in Skin Problems?

Skin problems are many and varied. For age spots, their occurrences vary in different people. For instance, you will find that dark skinned persons are less* likely to get them. The major reason for this is that dark skin is very effective in blocking ultra violet rays from penetrating the skin. Another factor that comes into play in the occurrence of age spots and other skin conditions is genetics. Some skin conditions are inherited from family members. These conditions prove very difficult to treat* mainly because chances of recurrence are quite high.

Are Age Spots Dangerous?

Extensive medical studies have shown that age spots are not harmful in any way. They do not imply that there is an underlying bigger problem that needs to be treated. For this reason, treatment for age spots is not considered necessary. However, age spots have been known to hinder early diagnosis of skin cancer thus posing a big threat.

How to Recognize Age Spots?

Age spots have a number of characteristics that define them. These characteristics are color, shape and feel. The color of age spots may vary from person to person. The most common colors are red, grey, brown and black. The shape of an age spot is oval or round. As for feel, age spots are usually smooth but the skin around them feels rough.

Diagnosis of Age Spots

The best diagnosis for age spots is done using color, area of occurrence, the size of the spots and also the shape. Some cases may require more extensive diagnosis procedures especially if the doctor suspects an underlying problem.

Available Treatments for Age Spots

There are several methods and techniques used in the treatment of age spots. These techniques include cryotherapy, laser treatment, electrosurgery, chemical peeling, freezing, dermabrasion and use of medications.

Prevention of Age Spots

The major cause of age spots, as mentioned earlier, is prolonged and unprotected exposure to the sun. Therefore, prevention of the occurrence of sunspots consists of avoiding harmful sun exposure. The length of time spent in the sun should be reduced*. Other precautionary measures that may prove effective include the use of protective creams, sun screens and tinted windows in the car and house. Frequent checkup by a dermatologist can also help greatly.