What are sun spots and can they be treated?

sun spotsSun spots are coloured areas of pigmentation on your skin that is caused by excessive exposure to the sun’s UV rays. They are typically flat, oval marks that are brown in colour, and once these have developed they will darken with continued exposure to the sun. They are also known colloquially as ‘liver spots’ or ‘age spots’.

Different types of sun spots

There are actually three different types of sun spots, each of which presents themselves slightly differently.

  1. Lentigines
  2. Cherry hemangiomas
  3. Seborrheic keratoses

Lentigines look rather similar to freckles and are often flat, roundish marks that are brown coloured. These are typically the size of a small pea up to the size of a 10p piece and are often found on areas of the body that have had frequent exposure to the sun. As the name would suggest, cherry hemangiomas are red-coloured spots. They are often much smaller (a lot smaller than a small pea) and are actually caused by a malfunction within the blood vessel. Unlike lentigines, these can appear anywhere on the body. Finally, seborrheic keratoses are a bit more unsightly. They are sometimes flat but can be raised, and vary in colour from quite pale to very dark, almost black. They are often scaly too, so are more textured than lentigines or cherry hemangiomas.

Should I be worried if I develop sun spots?

Sun spots are harmless, but it is very hard for a novice to tell the difference between a harmless sun spot and a potentially life threatening skin cancer. If you have developed any coloured patches on your skin or have developed an oval-shaped brown mark, there is a good chance that this is a sun spot, but it is extremely important to get this checked out by an expert.

A GP, dermatologist or a plastic surgeon such as Mr Alan Park will be able to help you understand the nature of the mark and will be able to advise if you need to see a specialist. With any change in the surface of your skin, the sooner you get it checked out, the sooner you’ll be able to understand exactly what it is and whether or not you need to be concerned. If it is something serious, the quicker you act the greater the likelihood that you’ll be able to do something about it.