Age Spot Treatments
We have all grown accustom to seeing those little brown spots on the body of our older loved ones. Many of us view them as just another ugly sign of aging. These little brown spots are what physicians refer to as solar lentigines. Most of the rest of society know them as sun spot, age spots or sometimes liver spots. They are most often found in people over the age of 50 but can also be seen in those younger people who like to spend a lot of time in the sun. They are most commonly found in sun exposed areas of the body such as the face, arms/hands, and shoulder/body, and can vary in size and shape depending on the severity.
Age spots are really a form of sun damage that results from excessive sun exposure over time. They are considered benign in nature but there can be some initial resemblance to early forms of skin cancer. This is why physicians will sometimes elect to biopsy the spot whenever there is any doubt. Treatment for age spots, otherwise, is not normally required except for cosmetic reasons. Some people will choose to lighten or remove these spots whenever present. In general, the best way to avoid getting them in the first place is to avoid the sun and to regularly wear sunscreen when you need to be outside.
Age spots are found on people of all skin types. People with a lighter complexion are more susceptible to developing these age spots. Often confused with freckles, age spots tend to develop later in life whereby freckles are more common in kids. Freckles also tend to fade in the absence of sun exposure while sun spots do not go away even in the absence of sun exposure.
So, what are age spots? Simply put, they are hyper-pigmented spots caused by the clumping of melanin in the skin. Normally when people suntan, the melanocytes in the skin that produce melanin, the pigment that gives us our skin color, will start to release more melanin. This extra melanin will in turn usually distribute throughout the skin resulting in a diffuse tan. Unfortunately, over time as we get more and more sun exposure, the melanin that is released, will begin to occasionally clump together instead of diffusing equally throughout the skin. The result is a darker spot or age spot. The more sun, the more clumping over time. This is why many people find that their sun spots tend to not only be in sun exposed areas, but they also seem to cluster together in certain areas. Individuals with fair skin tend to be more susceptible to age spots while those with naturally darker skin are more resistant although they too can still get some.
Although age spots are normally benign, there are times when a person should seek medical evaluation. The primary concern in these cases is to just be certain that the spot is not some form of skin cancer. So what should you be looking for?
- Is there an irregular border?
- Is the spot increasing in size?
- Does the spot bleed? (assuming no trauma)
- Is the spot black and not a brown color?
- Is the spot changing colors?
If you can answer yes to any of these questions, you should seek medical help.
As mentioned above, age spots do not normally require any medical treatment unless a person is looking to improve the aesthetic look thru some cosmetic treatments. The goal of treatment in these cases is to lighten up or remove the age spots so that they are no longer visible to the naked eye. So how is this done?
Since age spots are caused by the clumping of excess melanin at the base of the epidermis, any treatment must be able to penetrate this epidermal layer in order to break apart these melanin clumps.
Lasers and Intense pulse light (IPL) treatments have become the treatment of choice in the removal of these cosmetic age spots. These treatments are able to penetrate the epidermal layer and reach these melanotic clumps and ultimately break them apart. Thus, forcing the excess melanin to rise closer to the skin surface. Breaking these clusters apart enables the body to now start to reabsorb this excess melanin, which in turn allows the skin to return to its baseline color. Normally 2-3 treatments are required to accomplish this result but the darker the initial spots, and the more spots present, the more treatments that might be required.
Laser/IPL treatments are usually well tolerated. The majority of patients describe the treatment as being like a warm rubber band striking the skin with each pulse. Immediately after a treatment, the age spots will normally darken and eventually over a period of 2-4 weeks will begin to fade. Each additional treatment will continue to lighten the age spots until they are no longer visible.
It is important for the patient to wear sunscreen for a period of time following each treatment and potentially long term if they hope to prevent any future age spots from developing. So, if you would like to look younger by getting rid of your ugly age spots, call The Sheen Vein Institute today to schedule your free consultation. Let our staff of professionals answer your questions and help you start down the road to a younger you.