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Other Names: Sun-induced Skin Changes, Liver Spots, Senile Lentigines, Lentigos, Aging Skin Spots

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Definition

Age Spots are a natural sign of aging and are changes in skin color associated with older skin. Age spots are characterized as small, flat, brownish spots on the skin and usually occur in sun-exposed areas. Our skin naturally develops age spots, marks and bumps. Some age spots can be removed and some can be made less visible. Although age spots are sometimes called liver spots, in actual fact they are not related to the liver or liver functioning.

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Symptoms

Age spots are painless and do not itch. Age spots are merely discoloration of small areas of skin. The main symptom is a skin lesion or a flat patch or a macule (where the skin color has changed). Age spots are most visible on the back of the hands, the forearms, the shoulder, on the face and forehead and other areas that have the highest sun exposure.

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Implication

Age spots can be unsightly if there is an overabundance of them, or if they are heavily focused on areas of the body such as face or arms that are visible much of the time and not covered by clothing. It can lead to emotional distress in some people.

The beginning stages of some sorts of skin cancer can mimic age spots, causing misdiagnosis and delaying treatment.

Some researchers believe that age spots are a sign of free radical damage. Free radicals are cause oxidization of body cells that are often associated with aging. They can cause cancer in the body or lead to other diseases.

Age spots may be associated with an unhealthy level of sun exposure. In persons who receive too much sunlight, there is a higher risk of skin cancer.

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Possible Causes

The increased pigmentation known as age spots may be caused by aging, though aging itself has not been established as a cause. Age spots are extremely common once a person passes the age of forty.

Excessive sun exposure or other forms of ultraviolet light can cause blemishes similar to age spots in those who are not aging; these are often known as freckles and are more common in fair skinned people with red or blonde hair.

Some researchers believe that the by-product of free radical damage known as lipofuscin is responsible for age spots. These researchers believe that this sort of damage is caused by sun exposure, lack of exercise, smoking and ingestion of oxidized oils. They also believe that deficiencies of such nutrients as vitamin E and chromium make the damage more severe.

Most legitimate medical authorities believe that age spots are caused mainly by sun exposure and are not associated with any other health problems.

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Treatment Options

Treatment is not required for age spots, as they are considered harmless. Bleaching solutions and creams can fade these spots and improve cosmetic appearance. Cryotherapy (freezing) and laser surgery can make them disappear completely.

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Home Care & Natural Remedies

Since some believe that free radical damage causes age spots, vitamins A, C and E are powerful antioxidants that mitigate the damage of free radicals. Other antioxidants include Coenzyme Q10, Pycnogenol, grape seed extract and kyolic garlic.

Some natural skin treatments can help fade the appearance of age spots without bleaches. Often the active ingredients in these creams and salves is not revealed, but some people have reported significant improvements in the appearance of their skin

Although the antioxidant theory on age spots has not been proven, both antioxidant nutrients and the minerals calcium and magnesium are essential to the health of older persons. Calcium should always be taken in conjunction with magnesium to assure that it is absorbed properly.

Preventative measures for age spots are relatively simple. Protecting your skin from the sun for prolonged periods can prevent age spots, sunburns and skin cancer before they develop. By wearing protective clothing like hats and long-sleeved shirts and long skirts, you can minimize the effects of the sun on your skin. The sun shines strongest at midday, so one should avoid exposure during mid day hours. Sunglasses protect the eyes.

Using sunscreens with SPF (Skin Protection Factor) 30 or more on exposed skin and drinking plenty of water in hot weather is highly recommended in anyone who is exposed to direct sunlight for prolonged periods of time.

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Age Spots