Commonly known as age spots or liver spots, lentigo (or solar lentigines) are the appearance of tan, brown or black spots on the skin that develop in areas that have been repeatedly exposed to the sun, such as hands, face, shoulders and arms. Lentigines are flat and can appear on people of any age, but are most common in adults.
What Causes Age Spots or Lentigines?
Age spots, also known as lentigines, are caused by a combination of sun exposure, skin type and, it is thought, genes. Lighter complected people are more susceptible to developing lentigines.
How Can Age Spots Lentigines be Prevented?
Over time, even the most moderate sun exposure can build up and stimulate the development of age spots. The best way to help prevent age spots is to apply sunscreen daily to all areas of the body exposed to the sun.
When Should I Start Using Sunscreen to Prevent Age Spots?
To help prevent the development of age spots and other sun-related skin conditions, such as skin cancer, it’s important to make the use of sunscreen part of your daily routine, even in childhood.
If you haven’t adopted the use of sunscreen as a daily course of action, it’s not too late. White sunscreen cannot reverse the appearance of sunspots that have already developed, it can help deter the development of new lentigines that may appear in years to come.
Are Age Spots Harmful?
While age spots do not require medical care, they should be examined by a dermatology provider if they appear darker, raised or have changed in appearance. Let the dermatology provider decide what is safe, and what is harmful.
Can Age Spots Be Treated or Removed?
Age spots can be lightened cosmetically with bleaching products or lightened or removed with laser treatments. A single lentigo may also be removed through cryosurgery.
For a professional consultation and cosmetic treatments for age spots, contact the Skin and Cancer Center of Scottsdale at (480) 596-1110.
Types of Lentigo
Lentigo comes in various shapes and types and causes. See our quick guide to common types of Lentigo:
Lentigo Simplex is the most common type of lentigo and is most often found in children. Also referred to as juvenile lentigo, this harmless type of lentigo can be caused by a lesion or multiple lesions that may be present at birth or may develop in youth.
Lentigo Simplex is typified by round or oval spots with jagged or smooth edges.
Solar Lentigo is caused by the sun and may be treated with skin bleaching cosmetics or laser treatments.
Ink Spot Lentigo are tiny, black spots that appear similar to melanoma. If you develop a black lesion on your skin, have it checked by a dermatologist to rule out melanoma.
Sunbed Lentigo are the result of intense sun exposure, either through hours of sun exposure without using sunscreen or through using tanning beds. They can appear immediately after exposure or over time, and are noted by their development close together and their common appearance in younger adults.
Radiation Lentigo is a result of ionizing radiation exposure that leaves a distinct patch on the skin with marked hyperpigmentation or hypopigmentation.
PUVA Lentigo are small spots measuring 3-8 mm in diameter. They develop after undergoing ultraviolet (UVA) (PUVA) treatments for psoriasis and usually dissipate within six months after treatment has ended.
Genital Lentigo are harmless and can appear in men and women. These are often ignored because of their location, but should be examined, especially if they grow in size or change in shape, as these are signs of a more serious and possibly deadly condition.
Lentigine Profusa is a more serious condition in which the lentigine are spread over the body’s extremities and genitalia. This condition resembles freckles but the lesions may be darker and less varied distribution. This condition may be tied into a more serious skin condition.
Agnimated lentiginosis is also commonly linked to more serious conditions and develop during childhood. These marks are typically lighter in color and are associated with other childhood illnesses.
There are multiple lentigo related conditions that can occur from the latter two forms of lentigo. These conditions include LEOPARD Syndrome which is associated with deafness and other serious conditions. Peutz-Jeghers Syndrome which is marked by gastrointestinal polyps and Myxoma Syndrome, which can occur in many forms, can affect the heart.
When to See a Doctor
Lentigines are harmless, but the appearance of new spots and growths on the skin should be examined by a medically-trained professional to rule out more serious skin conditions. Remember, it is recommended that all adults should get a head-to-toe skin exam yearly. If you have new or existing skin spots, lesions or growths that have not been professional examined, call the Skin & Cancer Center of Scottsdale for a consultation at (480) 596-1110.