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What Causes Age Spots: Inability to Metabolize Fats Correctly?
- Contrary to popular belief, the skin discoloration condition known as age spots is not caused by an inability to metabolize fats, but excess exposure to ultraviolet light. As such, these spots are commonly found on sun damaged skin
- Prolonged exposure to UV rays causes an increase in melanin production, which makes the skin darker
- It’s important to pay close attention to these darkened pigmentation spots because they could be a sign of skin cancer
Most of us have seen hands covered in age spots, also known as liver spots, before. These dark splotches on the aging skin seem more prevalent in people over the age of 50 and are usually considered visually undesirable. However, there are many misconceptions about these age spots, including what causes them to develop.
The Cause of Age Spots
One of the most common misconceptions about age spots is how they form. The story tends to be that as we get older our body can no longer metabolize fat correctly, which leads to a buildup of toxins in our bodies. These toxins, in turn, cause the development of age spots. Because the liver is the organ responsible for metabolizing fat, the spots became known as liver spots.
Now it is known that the ability to metabolize fat has nothing to do with the development of age spots. The real cause is ultraviolet light. When your skin is exposed a great deal to UV light, it produces more melanin (the pigment in your skin that gives it color). When more melanin is present, your skin darkens, which is why you see tanning effects on skin.
What happens with age spots is that excess melanin starts clumping together in certain areas of the skin over time. Eventually, this buildup causes splotches to develop. Of course aging can play a role, too. Not only does it take years for the spots to show up, which means that they are more likely to appear on the skin of older people, but sometimes as we age the production of melanin in our bodies increases anyway.
Another False Belief that Can Be Dangerous
While attributing age spots to a problem with our body’s ability to metabolize fat is not a life-threatening mistake, the belief that all liver spots are harmless can be. Most people just assume that any age spot is a benign change in skin color, but sometimes these spots can be signs of skin cancer.
In most cases, those age spots are harmless. However, if you see a spot on your skin that is very dark, changes in size quickly, does not have a regular-shaped border, or has a strange color pattern, you should have the spot examined by a physician or dermatologist. Although skin cancer is rarely fatal, you want to catch it in its earliest stages to prevent spreading, complications, and excessive scarring after its removal.
Treating Age Spots
Because liver spots are unsightly and are associated with old age, many people want to get rid of them. The good news is there are several methods of age spots treatment. One is to use over-the-counter bleaching products that are intended to lighten the impact of the visible pigment. The downside to these treatments is they can be slow to work (results can sometimes take up to two months) and some of the products can cause skin irritation. Other cosmetic procedures, such as dermabrasion, chemical peels, and laser therapy can work as well.
The best idea is prevention. By minimizing your unprotected exposure to UV light and by avoiding tanning beds altogether, you can decrease your chances of developing age spots.
The information supplied in this article is not to be considered as medical advice and is for educational purposes only.
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