At TheHealthBoard, we're committed to delivering accurate, trustworthy information. Our expert-authored content is rigorously fact-checked and sourced from credible authorities. Discover how we uphold the highest standards in providing you with reliable knowledge.
Ephelis is a medical term of Greek origin that means freckle. A freckle itself is a flat, round and tan spot that appears on a person’s skin, most commonly on the cheeks and nose, as well as the arms and upper shoulders. In general, there are two different types of freckles — simple and sunburn. When a person is talking about an ephelis, he is referring to a simple freckle, as a sunburn freckle is called a lentigo. While there are many differences between an ephelis and a lentigo, the main physical characteristics of an ephelis are that it is usually lighter and smaller than a lentigo.
People with light hair and fair complexions are those who most commonly acquire ephelides. Ephelides can vary in color, but in general, they are darker than the surrounding skin. A person who acquires ephelides might discover that he or she tends to form them in multiples. They appear during sunny weather and can lighten during the winter. In some cases, the appearance of ephelides is a genetic trait.
In contrast to ephelides, lentigines usually appear due to sunburns, on the backs and upper shoulders, which are both areas where people get sunburned the most. As well as being darker and larger that ephilides, lentigines also tend to have more irregular borders. In addition, these types of freckles do not form in multiples but singularly and in isolated areas. Also, lentigines do not fade during the winter.
Although freckles might form as a result of genetics or a few medical conditions, they also appear as a result of repeated sunlight exposure; that is, a person often acquires freckles due to exposure to ultraviolet (UV) radiation. When a person is exposed to UV radiation, melanocytes, which are pigment-producing cells, increase the production of the pigment melanin. This increase in melanin is what results in freckles. The amount of freckles that forms varies from person to person, depending on genetics and susceptibility to UV radiation. For example, two people who receive the same amount of UV radiation will not necessarily receive the same amount of freckles.
Since freckles are usually harmless, treatment is not necessary. For cosmetic reasons, though, there are a couple of methods that can help prevent freckles from appearing. Avoiding the sun and using sunscreen might help reduce the appearance of freckles. In addition, there are also treatment methods that help lighten freckles. These methods include chemical peels, cryosurgery and laser treatment.