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Home :: Skin Disorders

Freckles - Definition, Causes, Symptoms and Treatment

 

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Freckles are flat, circular spots that typically range in the size of the head of a nail. Freckles are not harmful or the sign of a health problem. They are just pigment cells that are contained within the skin in small batches. Freckles are usually tan or light brown, flat, and very small. Freckles vary in color - they may be red, yellow, tan, light-brown, brown, or black - but they are always darker than the skin around them since they are due to deposits of the dark pigment called melanin. Having freckles is genetic and is related to the presence of the melanocortin-1 receptor MC1R gene variant. Freckling can also be triggered by long exposure to sunlight, such as suntanning. When the sun's rays penetrate the skin, they activate melanocytes which can cause freckles to become darker and more numerous, although the distribution of melanin is not the same. The freckles may fade away in winter and look prominent in summer. No treatment is required except sun protection. Once the exposure to sun is stopped, freckles will resolve over time.

Freckles also tend to fade as people get older. Whether you're freckled or not, be sure to wear sunscreen and follow other sun-safety rules. People with the fairest skin often do not produce enough melanin, and so freckles are present after puberty and into adulthood, indicating that individual as a genetic carrier for freckles. Predisposition to freckles is genetic, though exposure to sunlight is a factor in how many appear. The gene for freckling is related to the presence of red hair. Freckles, age spots and pregnancy mask have several things in common. They are formed in sun exposed areas: face, hands, chest and back. These unwelcome brown patches are nothing more than accumulation of skin pigment melanin which is always produced by the skin. Freckles are a warning to people who have them that their skin is highly vulnerable to sunburn and to skin cancer. Some people's freckles fade away almost completely in the winter and return in the summer. Other people's freckles don't change much with or without the sun and can be seen year-round.

Causes of Freckles

Freckles are commonly found on the face and hands, and any other part of the body that has been overexposed to the sun. The basic cause of freckles is special cells in the skin that produce a pigment called melanin. Freckling can also be triggered by long exposure to sunlight, such as suntanning. When the sun's rays penetrate the skin, they activate melanocytes which can cause freckles to become darker and more numerous, although the distribution of melanin is not the same.

Common causes and risk factors of Freckles:

  • Special cells in the skin that produce a pigment called melanin.
  • Long exposure to sunlight, such as suntanning.
  • Fair hair such as blonde, or more commonly red hair, are usually common with the genetic factor of freckles.
  • Fluctuating hormones.

Signs and Symptoms of Freckles

In some cases, freckles are sporadic, individual spots and sometimes there are several grouped together, making them appear larger and cover a greater portion of the skin. Freckles, age spots and pregnancy mask have several things in common. They are formed in sun exposed areas: face, hands, chest and back. These unwelcome brown patches are nothing more than accumulation of skin pigment melanin which is always produced by the skin.

Sign and symptoms may include the following :

  • Skin cancer.
  • There may be change in the skin color and shape.
  • Diarrhea.
  • Crampy abdominal pain.
  • Weight loss.
  • There may be blood or mucus in the stool.

Treatment for Freckles

The best treatment for freckles is prevention. The key to preventing freckles is sun avoidance and daily sunscreen use. Conventional treatments for freckles include cosmetic cover-ups and bleaching creams, neither of which have garnered satisfactory results. Heavy cosmetics need frequent touchups, and are not a good fit for today's active lifestyles. Upon exposure to the sun, freckles will reappear if they have been altered with creams or lasers and not protected from the sun, but do however fade with age in some cases. Freckles are not a skin disorder.

Treatment may include:

  • The use of hydroquinone and kojic acid are one of the beneficial treatment for freckles. They may help in lightning freckles if they are applied consistently over a period of months.
  • Several lasers, especially ones that produce a green light, can lighten and eliminate freckles safely and effectively. Like cryosurgery, this is a simple and safe procedure with a high success rate and a low risk of scarring.
  • Tretinoin (vitamin A acid, Retin-A) also helps to make freckles lighter when applied over a period of time.
  • A light freeze with liquid nitrogen can be used to treat freckles.
  • Chemical peels are used to remove age spots, freckles, discoloration, wrinkles and fine lines. They generally help to make the skin smooth and firm and also help in curing freckles gradually.