Sun damage (also known as the photo damage) occurs when the appearance and texture of the skin changes from frequent exposure to the sun’s ultraviolet rays. Sun damage causes extrinsic aging, which is premature aging of the skin. Photoaging is a condition in which premature aging of the skin happens due to long-term sun exposure. The signs of photoaging are fine lines, roughness, age spots, and wrinkles. Sun damage also increases the risk of skin cancer.
UVA rays and UVB rays are the two types of ultraviolet rays emitted from the sun. UVA rays will go deep into the human skin causing skin cancer and early aging. UVB rays are the main cause of sunburns. The most common symptom of sun damage is the change seen in the skin color. Brown spots appear from pigment changes in the skin. Freckles are caused in people with light colored skin. Large freckles seen on the chest, arms, upper back, shoulders, and back of the hands are called liver spots or age spots. Moles appear in areas that are exposed to sun. Larger, irregular moles might indicate that the person is prone to develop melanoma. Yearly skin checks should be performed, as early detection in important and increases the cure rate for malignant melanoma.
The symptoms of sunburn are an increase in skin temperature, pain, and red skin. If you are experiencing nausea, fever, and dizziness, then you must consult with a doctor. Sunburn symptoms will disappear after some time, but can cause permanent damage to the skin and may lead to skin cancer.
Skin cancer can be treated if detected at an early stage. Fair-skinned people are at a higher risk because of the reduced amount of Melanin in the skin when compared to dark-skinned people. If there is a family history of skin cancer, then you are at a higher risk. If you are living in a mountainous region, use tanning booths, or are under the treatment of certain antibiotics which increase the sensitivity to sun, then you are at a higher risk of sun damage.
There are ways for you to check your body to see if you have any visible sun damage. Know your ABC’s by using the following guidelines:
- Asymmetry – Is the mole asymmetrical/uneven in shape?
- Border – Is there a dark or uneven border?
- Color – Is there any discoloration of the mole?
- Diameter – Is the diameter larger than a pencil eraser? Has the size changed since you last checked?
If any lesions fit any of these categories, you should consult Dr. Ariel Ostad, a well-established and skilled dermatologist. He will perform a thorough skin check and decide whether or not you will require any further treatments or biopsies.