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About Sun Damage
Sun damage occurs when your skin is over-exposed to the sun. In Australia, sun damage is very common and presents itself through a variety of different symptoms.
While spending as little as 15 minutes in the Australian sun can immediately cause sun burn, sun damage is cumulative and can take years or even decades to appear in the form of visible symptoms. These visible symptoms can vary in severity, from being solely cosmetic to life threatening.
Sun damage symptoms can appear as wrinkles, freckles, sun spots and skin cancers – all on the same person. The effects of sun damage on your skin and overall health can vary depending on the level of sun exposure you have had, your skin type, your age and a variety of other factors. Sun damage can lead to cosmetic changes in your skin such as premature ageing, wrinkles and discolouration. It can also lead to more serious conditions like skin cancer.
Common Effects of Sun Damage
Premature Ageing of the Skin
Sun damage to your skin can result in the development of fine lines, wrinkles, discolouration and textural changes. These cosmetic effects of sun damage can make your skin look prematurely aged and visibly damaged.
Fine Lines and Wrinkles
After years of sun exposure, the inner layers of the skin thicken and their ability to retain moisture is reduced. This can lead to the appearance of fine lines and wrinkles. These are particularly common around the eyes and mouths of middle aged and older Australians.
The overactivity of tanning cells (melanocytes) caused by years of sun exposure can result in the development of brown freckles, the growth of lesions known as solar lentigines and the appearance of small white marks about 2-5 millimetres in size, which are particularly common on shins and forearms.
Sun damage to your skin can result in the development of fine lines, wrinkles, discolouration and textural changes. Sun damage can also lead to changes in the texture of your skin – the way it feels when it is touched. Years of sun damage can lead to the outer layer of the skin becoming thinner, meaning it easily blisters, tears and grazes. At the same time, long term sun exposure can cause the inner layers of the skin to increase in size and loses their elasticity. This can lead to the development of yellow, thickened bumps on parts of the skin that have endured the most sun exposure, like the back of the neck and hands.
As well as causing undesired cosmetic changes to your skin, sun damage can also lead to skin cancer. Skin cancer is the most common cancer in Australia and about two in three Australians will be diagnosed with a form of skin cancer before the age of 70. Over 380,000 Australians are treated for skin cancer every year. This is the highest rate in the world. Skin cancer is related to sun damage, particularly sunburn that occurred during childhood. It is also caused by long-term exposure to the sun’s UV rays. Each time your unprotected skin is exposed to the sun’s UV rays, changes take place in the structure of your skin’s cells. Too much exposure to these UV rays causes the skin to become permanently damaged. This damage affects the immune system in the skin, reducing its ability to identify and attack newly forming skin cancer cells.
Solar keratoses or sun spots are skin lesions that develop as a result of exposure to the sun’s UV rays. The spots vary in size – from as small as 2 millimetres up to 20 millimetres across – and can be scaly or warty in their appearance. The colour of sun spots varies too, from a barely noticeable darkening in skin colour to a more obvious red. While they can be uncomfortable and unsightly, sun spots are generally harmless. However, they can develop into a type of skin cancer called squamous cell carcinoma (SCC). In patients with more than 10 sun spots, there is a 10-15% chance of the patient developing skin cancer. As a result, sun spots are generally treated, both for cosmetic and health reasons.
Correction of Sun Damaged Skin
While your age, general health and social and professional circumstances should be considered when discussing procedural options, it is the type of sun damage you have that will ultimately decide what treatment path should be taken. Generally LED healing light therapy will be utilised for the treatment of sun damaged skin.
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