Repeated sun exposure is the usual cause of dark spots on skin, a
condition that commonly appears in middle age. They
usually make one look older and are therefore, taken as a sign of
aging. However, there are other factors that cause skin discoloration
or hyperpigmentation and one may need medical consultation to diagnose,
treat them, and improve one’s appearance.
The most common cause of
dark spots on skin is excessive sun exposure.
Cumulative doses of ultraviolet radiation from the sun can result in
skin damage and increased pigmentation.
Post-inflammatory hyperpigmentation is another common factor that produces dark spots on the skin, and this may be brought about by acne, wrong shaving techniques, allergic reaction, or other traumatic injury that causes inflammation and subsequent overproduction of melanin, the brown pigment produced in the skin.
Other conditions that may cause dark spots to appear on the skin include pregnancy, Addison’s disease, melasma, and intake of certain drugs like birth control pills, estrogen, certain antibiotics, phenytoin, and others. These conditions can lead to the development of dark spots or patches, which may or may not go away without treatment.
A more serious condition that manifests as a dark spot on the skin is melanoma, a life threatening type of skin cancer.
The diagnosis of dark spots on skin usually depends on the medical history and physical findings upon consultation. Laboratory tests such as blood tests or skin biopsy may be done to rule out suspicious lesions like cancer.
Accompanying symptoms may vary depending on the cause of dark
skin spots or patches. Dark spots that appear during middle age in
exposed skin areas such as the face, hands, and arms are characteristic
of age spots. These are more pronounced among fair-skinned individuals
because of the contrast in color of the skin, but they also occur in
dark-skinned people. No other symptoms are observed.
Post-inflammatory hyperpigmentation causes darks spots on skin to appear after a traumatic injury such as acne heals and leaves a dark color on the skin.
Dark patches that occur during pregnancy or are associated with hormonal changes or drug intake usually disappear after the birth of the baby or after discontinuation of the drugs. No other symptoms are observed.
If the dark spot is irregular in shape, size, and color, rapidly changing and accompanied by bleeding, skin cancer such as melanoma must be considered.
If black spots appear asymmetrical and rapidly change in size, shape, and color, they may be symptomatic of melanoma. These spots may bleed, and the borders may become irregular.
The goal of treatment in most cases is to improve appearance
such as Olay
Age Spot Treatment,
rather than cure an existing condition, except in cases of skin cancer,
where the underlying disease must be treated.
Changes in skin color due to excessive sun exposure and aging may be treated using over-the-counter creams and lotions that lighten the dark spots such as Dermology or cosmetic products that hide them. These include skin-bleaching products that may contain hydroquinone, tretinoin, or kojic acid. Dermatologists may also recommend prescription strength skin lightening products that contain retinoic acid (a vitamin A derivative) and steroids. Post-inflammatory hyperpigmentation may also be treated with these skin products.
Other methods which can reduce dark spots and improve skin appearance include phototherapy, microdermabrasion, chemical peeling, and laser treatment.
A dark spot that is caused by skin cancer needs immediate treatment that may involve surgery, chemotherapy, radiotherapy, and immunotherapy, depending on the stage of the disease.