Indianapolis doctors answer the top 5 questions about age spots
Age spots are common among patients over 40 and appear on skin exposed to the most sun. While these splotches — also called liver spots — are usually harmless, Indianapolis dermatologists suggest seeing a doctor to confirm diagnosis and rule out skin cancer. “A lot of times people think they’re age spots, but they’re not and don’t see a doctor,” says Dr. Scott Guenthner of highly rated The Dermatology Center of Indiana in Plainfield.
To learn how to minimize the appearance of age spots and improve related symptoms, ask your health provider these questions:
1. What causes age spots?
“In many cases, it’s a genetic tendency,” says Dr. Steve Shideler of highly rated Shideler Dermatology in Carmel. “Very often sun plays a part, and it’s also a matter of time. People get them more often as they get older.”
2. Who will be treating me?
Dermatologists and plastic surgeons primarily treat age spots, but many health care providers offer chemical peels and laser therapy. “Ask about their training and experience,” Guenthner says. “A lot of times people can set up shop without any training, and Indiana is one of those states.”
3. Should I treat it?
Most age spots are flat and gray or brown; however, some can be red, rough and cause discomfort. “It often depends on how uncomfortable they are as to whether or not a patient seeks treatment,” Guenthner says. Some patients want to lighten the appearance of the spots for cosmetic reasons. “But it’s OK to leave them alone,” Shideler says. Both doctors warn patients to watch out for any suspicious changes in the spots, such as those that grow and become irregular in color, shape or border.
4. What are the treatment options for age spots?
Doctors can freeze off small lesions, or use a laser or chemical peel. Other treatments include bleaching and restorative creams, according to Shideler. “Our typical treatment is laser light therapy,” Guenthner says. It can take one or two treatments, but often requires up to six sessions.
Shideler says treatments used to remove layers of skin introduce a slight risk of discoloration, or very rarely, scarring. “If done by a qualified professional, that’s not a big concern,” he says.
5. How much will each cost, and does insurance cover it?
Health insurance typically covers a portion of dermatology visits for diagnosis; however, coverage doesn’t extend to age spot treatment because it’s considered cosmetic, according to Guenthner. He says skin lightening creams cost between $100 and $150; chemical peels cost $125 to $300 per treatment, and laser treatments are $250 to $500 per session, depending on the laser type.