Age spots, also known as liver spots or lentiges, are small, brown patches of pigmentation which appear on the skin. They are usually caused by overactive pigment cells and the formation is accelerated by ultraviolet light (UV) from the sun. Prolonged exposure to the sun leads to the production of melanin and they form a cluster of dark pigments to become age spots. Any other sources of UV rays can also contribute to the formation of age spots such as commercial tanning beds.
They vary in size and usually appear on areas that are most frequently exposed to the sun such as face, arms, shoulders, and neck. They can range from a size of a small freckle to about half an inch across.
Age spots are commonly found in middle-aged adults in their 40s or 50s. However, younger people can also get them if they are exposed to the sun very regularly. Although age spots are usually harmless and don’t require medical treatment, they can be unsightly. Just like moles, age spots can also be dangerous if they are darker than others on your body or if they change in appearance over a period of time. These changes may be signs of melanoma, which is a serious form of skin cancer.
Freckles, on the other hand, are found in younger people and children – typically in fairer skin types such as Caucasian skin.
Lasers work very well to remove age spots and freckles. Freckles, however, tend to recur after removal. Age spots often come together with other forms of pigmentation such as melasma, and hence, combination therapy is often required. Good news is that these can be removed with laser for cosmetic reasons.
Know Your Problems
- Age spots appear due to accumulative ultra-violet damage, occurring mostly in older people.
- Freckles are small, brown patches on the skin, usually inherited, occurring mostly in young people.
- Lasers work very well for both conditions.