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Age Spots & Sun Damage

INTRODUCTION TO SUN DAMAGE

Soaking up the sun’s rays used to be considered healthy…before we learned about the dangers of ultraviolet rays. Sunlight can be used to treat some skin diseases, but we all need to avoid overexposure to the sun. Too much sun can cause wrinkles, freckles, skin texture changes, dilated blood vessels, and skin cancers.

 
Normal Skin
At birth we are given a flexible, but tough, protective covering. The skin color is unblemished and wrinkle free. It has a smooth texture and a good elastic tone. The surface is covered with fine hair.

Chronologic Aged Skin
With age, all parts of the skin diminish in size and function. The skin becomes thinner, drier, and more fragile. Pigment cells are less active so that the skin tans less easily. Hair becomes finer, thinner, and gray. Despite these changes, "old" skin functions remarkably well, and no one has died of "skin failure."

Sun Aged Skin
Sunlight injures the skin, particularly the epidermis. The cumulative effects of sun exposure are wrinkling, blotchy pigmentation and roughness. Sun damaged skin also becomes less flexible and more easily bruised. Finally, sun damage is the major cause of skin cancer.

The sun’s rays

The sun produces both visible and invisible rays. The invisible rays, known as ultraviolet A (UVA) and ultraviolet B (UVB), cause most of the problems. Both cause suntan, sunburn and sun damage. There is no safe UV light.

Harmful UV rays are more intense in the summer, at higher altitudes, and closer to the equator. The sun’s harmful effects are also increased by wind and reflections from water, sand, and snow. Even on cloudy days UV radiation reaches the earth.

Protection from the sun

While sun damaged spots and skin cancers are almost always curable when detected and treated early, the surest line of defense is to prevent them in the first place. Here are some sun-safety habits that should be part of everyone’s healthcare:

  • Avoid unnecessary sun exposure, especially during the sun’s peak hours (10am to 4pm).
  • Seek the shade.
  • Cover up with clothing, including a broad-brimmed hat, long pants, a long sleeved-shirt, and UV-blocking sunglasses.
  • Wear a broad-spectum sunscreen with a sun protection factor (SPF) of 15 or higher. Apply 20 minutes before going outdoors and reapply after 20 minutes and then every two hours after swimming or strenuous activity.
  • Avoid tanning parlors and artificial tanning devices.
  • Examine your skin from head to toe every month.
  • Have a professional skin examination annually.

Harmful effects of the sun

  • Sunburn. Your chances of developing a sunburn are greatest between 10AM and 4pm, when the sun’s rays are strongest. It is easier to burn on a hot day, because the heat increases the effects of UV rays.

Sun protection is also important in the winter. Snow reflects up to 80 percent of the sun’s rays, causing sunburn and damage to uncovered skin. Winter sports in the mountains increase the risk of sunburn because there is less atmosphere the block the sun’s rays.

If skin is exposed to sunlight too long, redness may develop and increase for up to 24 hours. A severe sunburn causes skin tenderness, pain, swelling, and blistering. Additional symptoms like fever, chills, upset stomach and confusion indicate a serious sunburn and require immediate medical attention. If you develop a fever, your dermatologist may suggest medicine to reduce swelling, pain and prevent infection. Unfortunately, there is no quick cure for minor sunburn. Wet compresses, tub baths and soothing lotions may provide some relief.

  • Tanning. A tan is often mistaken as a sign of good health. Dermatologists know better. A suntan is actually the result of skin injury. Tanning occurs when UV rays enter the skin and it protects itself by producing more pigment or melanin. ndoor tanning is just as bad for your skin as sunlight. Most tanning salons use ultraviolet-A bulbs and studies have shown that UVA rays go deeper into the skin and contribute to premature wrinkling and skin cancer.

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               Thank you, Dr. Rob Schwartz

 

These statements have not been evaluated by the Food and Drug Administration.
They are the sole opinion of Dr. Schwartz and are not intented to diagnose, treat, cure or prevent any disease.

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