Sun-damage has varying degrees of presentation on the skin. After years of sun exposure the skin often develops color and texture changes. The more troublesome type of sun-damage presents as actinic keratoses (AKs). AKs are considered the earliest stage in the development of skin cancer. They are common lesions of the epidermis (outermost layer of the skin), and are caused by long-term exposure to sunlight. AKs are most likely to appear after age 40 and the most significant predisposing factor to AKs is fair skin and long-term sun exposure.
Chronic sun exposure causes skin cells to change size, shape, and the way they are organized. The skin cells affected in AKs are the keratinocytes. Keratinocytes are the tough-walled cells that make up 90 percent of the epidermis and give the skin its texture.
Changes in keratinocytes can be seen when the skin becomes rough, scaly, or mottled, and develops bumps or small horn-like growths. Further changes in cell growth can turn AKs into squamous cell carcinoma, a type of skin cancer.
The dermatology physicians of Cascade Eye & Skin Centers, P.C. recommend annual full-body skin checks to prevent and detect sun damage from becoming a dangerous form of skin cancer.
Melasma typically results from sun exposure, causing a darkening of the skin. While there are no other symptoms or serious side effects, melasma can be cosmetically frustrating. Certain skin types are predisposed to develop melasma as well as those taking hormone supplements, such as birth control. Common affected areas include patches scattered on the face, the upper lip, and cheeks. Cascade Eye & Skin Centers, P.C. offers several cosmetic treatments directed towards lightening the pigmented skin resulting from melasma, including chemical peels and laser skin resurfacing. We recommend a broad-spectrum sunscreen SPF 30+ to prevent the development of melasma.
Vitiligo is a common skin condition in which patches of the skin lose pigmentation and appear white. These patches develop when melanin is not produced properly, and tend to spread over time as the condition progresses. Some patients may also experience premature whitening of the hair and a loss of color inside the mouth. Although not harmful, patients with vitiligo are often bothered by their appearance and may seek treatment to correct their skin tone.
Treatment for vitiligo at Cascade Eye & Skin Centers, P.C. depends on the severity of the condition, and may include oral or topical medications or UVB phototherapy. While there is no cure for this condition, treatment is often effective in improving the appearance of the skin.