White spots or dots on the skin. What are these?
Sun damage is also called actinic damage, solar damage, UV damage, etc. Basically this is any damage to the skin caused by exposure to the ultraviolet light portion of natural light. Primarily UVB which is from 290nm – 320 nm, and UVA 320nm to 400 nm. Sun damage occurs over time both from day to day exposure and from intense exposures which can cause sunburns. UVB peaks in the middle of the day. UVA is present all day long, constantly. They both cause most skin cancers!
Preventing and Reversing Sun Damage
- Increased use of sunscreen with zinc 9-20%, with frequent reapplication, will help to reverse the sun damage by allowing the skin’s natural repair enzymes to work more efficiently.
- Any sunscreen, even those without the best UVA blocker (zinc oxide), is better than no sunscreen
- Surfer shirts, protective clothing and hats!
- Sun avoidance
Avoid sun and natural light on your skin! Avoidance may not be enough, at the certain point, because too much damage has been done. Precancerous spots (actinic keratoses) and skin cancers are already appearing. See your doctor!!
Other Causes of White Spots
- Tinea Versicolor – a yeast that lives on the skin naturally and over grows in some situations. Often associated with warmer weather and sweating. See your doctor for treatment.
- Scars – most scars will develop into white spots or lines after the initial healing phase.
- Use of hydroquinone creams. In many countries these are available in high concentrations without prescriptions. In the U.S., they are available in the drugstore at 2% and by prescription at 4%. Overuse can cause uneven skin pigment, including white spots. Use these under a doctor’s supervision.
- Vitiligo – An autoimmune disease that attacks and kills the pigment making cells in the skin. There are many different types of vitiligo. See your doctor for diagnosis and treatment.
- Hanson’s disease (leprosy) – It is caused by a bacteria and is curable currently in most cases. Found primarily in India, Brazil, Indonesia, Congo, and Ethiopia.
If you have any question about the diseases above, please see your doctor.
Hope this helps, Dr. I