Solar Keratosis or Seborrheic Warts?

Wow, all these big words. Most people will know these to be termed as age spots or liver spots.

Unfortunately they are both created through sun damage and not from recent years but usually decades before.

Many of us that now find ourselves in our 40’s of 50’s did little to protect our skin from the sun as children. The main reason for this is that our parents and/or carers did not know any different. Our knowledge now is far better, our understanding and awareness has grown in the last 10 years. We still don’t have it completely right but we are getting there. Unfortunately however this does not help those of us that are faced with these often unsightly lesions.

When these marks of brown pigmentation start, often looking like a tiny faint coffee stain or sometimes thought as being a freckcle (Ephilide) they are known or classified as a solar keratosis. They are created through pockets of melanin (the pigment we have in our skin) culminating in one area instead of being evenly distributed. Melanin is in our skin to protect the skin from the UVA rays produced by sunlight. When we have exposure to sunlight then melanin production is increased, rises to the surface (usually in a uniform manner) and we tan. However when pockets of melanin arise (nobody seems to know why) then we get a deeper colour in that one site because the melanin production is abundant. Our skin is then scattered with these marks. There can be just a few, many or very many.

As exposure to sunlight continues and as our skin ages, plus the wart virus being prevalent in most of us, they then begin to change in their appearance. They protrude more from the skin, often go darker and become rough on the surface, often termed as crusty. When we notice the rough skin, we tend to pick and mess with it in the hope it will go. For a short time that is the case. The lesion is scratched off and we are thankful that it’s gone. Unfortunately however this is just a false sense of victory as the lesion returns and often a little bigger for the interference and slightly uglier than it was previously. If left to their own devices then they will slowly get bigger and often meld together, often overlapping each other.

This is due to the fact that they now have an established superficial blood supply which with it comes the continuing wart virus and nourishment to grow. The only way to get rid of them at this stage is to have them cauterised to stop the blood to the area and stop the wart virus having any continuing effect. The pigment is removed at the same time and the look and feel of the skin will return to its normal state.