What is actually happening to the skin when it exhibits an age spot?
Age Spots - What is Actually Happening to the Skin?
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Doctor Answers 3
Age Spot Treatment and an Explanation of What Is Happening To The Skin
Very good question. Age spots result from excessive and ongoing exposure to the sun. As you may know, UV rays from the sun are very damaging for the skin. In order to try to protect itself, your skin will produce higher quantities of melanin which can be thought of as a biological sunscreen.
Age spots are basically highly concentrated areas of melanin that reside below the skin’s surface. So when a laser like Fraxel Dual is used to get rid of age spots, the laser energy breaks structures in your skin that contain the melanin. Your body’s lymphatic system then carries away these remains.
Age spots, lentigo, actinic keratosis, solar elastosis
Many patients mean different things by the word age spots. We generally interpret this word to mean lentigo or solar lentigo. Others may be referring to actinic keratosis or solar elastosis, although this is not how it is usually used. With solar lentigo, the epidermal melanocytes are increased and there are no nests of melanocytes like we find in a nevus.
Age spot may suggest precancerous change, not just a cosmetic concern
Age spot signifies accumulation of sun damage leading to excessive deposition of pigment and retention of senescent skin cells on the surface of the skin. Some of the age spot may actually be precancerous (where there is deleterious damage to the DNA of skin cells from years of ultraviolet insults), otherwise known as actinic keratosis, and should be evaluated by a board-certified dermatologist.
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These answers are for educational purposes and should not be relied upon as a substitute for medical advice you may receive from your physician. If you have a medical emergency, please call 911. These answers do not constitute or initiate a patient/doctor relationship.