Other Age Spots

See spot sun

The age spot archetype (i.e. lentigo) is also known as a ‘liver spot’, though it has nothing to do with the liver except for its brownish color. Lentigenes can be as small as a freckle or cluster into large splotchy patches a centimeter or larger. They’re most common on the face, chest and hands but can appear anywhere. Physiologically, they are clumps of melanocytes (i.e. brown pigment cells) that have clumped together in the epidermis as an immune response to excessive sun exposure. While they are unattractive in and of themselves they’re not dangerous. But for our conscientious skin caretaker, age spots aren’t really an issue because in protecting herself from the sun, she has prevented the unsightly lesions from taking up residence on her face and body in the first place.

Unwelcome visitors

But wait a minute, what’s this? All is not perfectly smooth in dermland after all. What are all these little lesions, bumps, scales and growths that have seemingly sprouted up out of nowhere? Technically, I’m referring to seborrheic keratoses, acrochordons and angiomas and they’re some pretty uncomely customers. Because no matter how well you’ve taken care of your skin, these little invaders show up on aging (even if it happens to look young) skin on their own accord and there’s nothing you can do to prevent them. Alas, one more thing to put in the ‘life isn’t fair’ folder.

Before taking a look at each of these individually though, let me emphasize that as an age-related phenomenon these are benign, not contagious, non-cancerous lesions that pose no threat to your health. OK, one at a time:

-Seborrheic keratoses (aka senile warts) – Also termed as ‘barnacles of old age.’ These are rough, slightly elevated round or oval spots that look as if they have been glued onto the skin. We don’t know their cause but what we do know is that they are a result of the epidermis (top layer of the skin) growing in an abnormal fashion. Their pigment can be pale or dark; their size can vary from a tiny dot to over an inch in diameter (though this is rare.) The lay term ‘senile wart’ is another example of misleading through misnaming. They are not warts – which come from the HPV virus – even remotely. The name probably derives from the sueded surface texture they both share.

-Acrochordons (aka skin tags) – Technically, skin tags are benign little tumors. They look like little polyps – sometimes on a stalk or sometimes just as a small seed-size flap of skin – and show up in places where body tissues crease or rub; the neck, the armpit, under the breasts, the groin, the eyelids. Those who are pregnant or overweight tend to get them more frequently. And buxom ladies often notice them around their bra straps.

-Angiomas (aka cherry angiomas or red polka dots)– Another category of benign dermal tumors, angiomas are those bright red lesions that can start as small as a pinhead and in some cases grow into a spongy dome as wide as a quarter inch across. They’re most common on the torso but can also appear on the arms or the legs. Like seborrheic keratoses, their precise cause is unknown but as tissue they’re made up of clusters of dilated capillaries.

I realize that it’s little comfort that the vast majority of people will get some or all of the above as they grow older. It’s no joy that the lesions’ frequency of appearance will accelerate with the passing years either. So what to do? Whatever course you take, you must NOT pick or try to remove these them yourself. It won’t work in the first place and in the second, you risk infection and permanent scarring.

Your two options are:

  1. If they don’t bother you, just leave them alone, no harm, no foul.
  2. If they do bother you, all are extremely easy for a dermatologist or other physician to remove with immaculate, indiscernible results. To keep ahead of growths (and they will keep popping up for the rest of your life), a visit to the doctor about twice a year should do the trick to keep your skin looking as flawless as you deserve.

Spots due to aging may show up but they don’t have to stay on your skin.

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