Remember when our hands were smooth, white and soft? Our faces pale or maybe slightly tanned, but fresh and healthy-looking; smooth with a clear complexion and rosy cheeks? Well, I am sorry to have to tell you that those days are gone forever. Now we are BABY BOOMERS and our lives have changed.
Now, we face a new challenge. ‘Foreign objects’ seem to be gathering here and there on our bodies daily. Every morning as we look in the mirror, something new is there. Age spots, freckles, moles, seborrheic warts, cherry angiomas, large, clogged pores, blackheads, whiteheads, pimples, not to mention dry, cracked and chapped skin and of course, wrinkles. The list goes on and on. What are these things and what can be done about them?
They are skin growths and they are common among older people. Most are non-cancerous (benign). They may enlarge, but they do not spread to other areas of the body. The cause of these growths is unclear but some are caused by years of exposure to the sun’s ultra-violet radiation.
Age spots are flat, light brown to black spots and are similar to freckles. From the age of 40 on, the skin is less able to regenerate from sun exposure and liver spots are very common in this older age group, particularly in those who enjoy being out in the sunshine. They are caused from years of exposure to ultra-violet radiation from the sun and usually appear on areas exposed to the sun-hands, arms, face, neck and shoulders.
Age spots are also known as liver spots (although they are unrelated to the liver) or senile/solar lentigines. Age spots have been known to proliferate in some individuals under emotional distress. Age spots can also result from bruising that leaves blood pigments behind.
Some people consider these spots unsightly and wish to have them removed for cosmetic reasons. This can be done by cyrotherapy, laser treatment or a Dermatologist can recommend a cream or ointment to lighten the spots, and after several weeks of frequent, regular applications, they may lighten a bit.
The most common skin growth is the mole which is a colored (usually dark) painless spot that can be flat or raised. They come in different sizes, shapes, colors and types and appear everywhere on the body. Once formed, moles remain for decades. They come at any age from early childhood on. Most moles are harmless, but some can become cancerous.
Seborrheic Wart (Seborrheic Keratoses)
A seborrheic wart is a small, rough, irregularly shaped, flesh colored or dark bump. The surface looks waxy or scaly. It looks pasted or stuck on the skin. These warts usually appear during middle or old age, usually on the torso and temples. The growths range in size from very small to over an inch across. Seborrheic keratoses appear one or two at a time over many years.
It is one of the most common types of non-cancerous skin growths in older adults. Their exact cause is not known but heredity plays a part. Treatment usually is not needed unless irritation or bleeding occurs. Treatment includes surgical removal or removal by freezing.
Skin tags are soft, generally benign, flesh-colored or dark bumps that are connected to the skin by a stalk. They occur most often after midlife. They are usually painless and do not grow or change. Skin tags are more common in people who are overweight or who have diabetes. The most common places for skin tags to develop are on the neck, trunk, body folds, and eyelids and in the armpit.
These growths can be surgically removed, removed by freezing or electrically burned off if they become bothersome.
Cherry angiomas are benign overgrowths of blood vessels that form raised red or purple bumps or spots. They vary in size and are most common after age 40. Although painless and harmless, cherry angiomas may bleed profusely if injured. If they are cosmetically displeasing, or are prone to bleeding, they may be removed by surgery, freezing, burning, or laser.
All the above skin conditions are usually benign, painless and harmless and are just normal ‘signs’ of aging. Do not be too dismayed as they all can be removed by a dermatologist if they are cosmetically displeasing. Personally, I prefer to just ignore them and let them be. Each time we look in the mirror, these little signs will remind us of all our wisdom and life experiences we now possess as Baby Boomer Senior Citizens. We have earned each and every one of those lumps and bumps!