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Causes of Dark Spots

Causes of Dark Spots Causes of Dark Spots

Dark spots on the skin have several other names used interchangeably, including age spots, sun spots and liver spots. These spots occur when the melanin pigment in your skin accumulates in high concentrations in the skin. In most cases, dark spots pose no threat to your health and are only a strange mark on the skin. However, knowing why your dark spots have developed can give you a better understanding of what is going on with your skin.

Sun Exposure and Damage

When you expose your skin to the sun, your body's pigment production works to respond to the exposure. Sunlight can burn light skin, and having pigment enables your body to protect itself from sun damage. However, prolonged exposure--no matter what type of skin you have--can lead to changes in your pigment's production and location in the skin. Spots that appear on the skin as a result of sun exposure are called "solar lentigo." Some may mistake them for freckles, but these spots are typically larger than freckles and have more irregular shapes as a result of their congealing under the skin. These spots result from the sun's effects on pigment-producing melanocytes in the skin, which have production patterns that are thrown off by the sun's rays. Avoiding tanning beds and using sunscreen can help avoid the sun damage causing these spots.

Hormone Fluctuations

Some medications can create spots on the skin. Birth control pills, for example, contain hormones that can bolster the body's production of melanin. The production and placement of this pigment can be uneven, sometimes causing brown stains in your face or chest. This can be exacerbated by sunbathing. In addition to birth control, pregnancy can sometimes cause hormonal changes in the second half of gestation that produce brown staining.

Prenatal Causes

Some birthmarks can appear as dark spots on the skin, and sometimes as moles. The cause of these marks is unknown, and in most cases there is no health risk associated with them. These birthmarks or moles can sometimes be excised if they grow in unappealing locations.

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