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Liver spots

Sun-induced skin changes - liver spots; Senile or solar lentigo or lentigines; Skin spots - aging; Age spots

 

Liver spots are flat, brown or black spots that can appear on areas of the skin that are exposed to the sun. They have nothing to do with the liver or liver function.

Causes

 

Liver spots are changes in skin color that occur in older skin. The coloring may be due to aging, exposure to the sun or other sources of ultraviolet light, or causes that are not known.

Liver spots are very common after age 40. They occur most often on areas that have had the greatest sun exposure, such as the:

  • Backs of the hands
  • Face
  • Forearms
  • Forehead
  • Shoulders

 

Symptoms

 

Liver spots appear as a patch or area of skin color change that is:

  • Flat
  • Light brown to black
  • Painless

 

Exams and Tests

 

Your health care provider usually diagnoses the condition based on how your skin looks, especially if you are over 40 and have had a lot of sun exposure. You may need a skin biopsy to confirm the diagnosis. The biopsy also helps rule out a skin cancer called melanoma if you have a liver spot that looks irregular or is unusual in other ways.

 

Treatment

 

Most of the time, no treatment is needed. Talk to your provider about using bleaching lotions or creams. Most bleaching products use hydroquinone. This medicine is thought to be safe in the form used to lighten darkened skin areas. However, hydroquinone can cause blisters or skin reactions in sensitive people.

Talk to your provider about other treatment options, including:

  • Freezing (cryotherapy)
  • Laser treatment
  • Intense pulsed light

 

Outlook (Prognosis)

 

Liver spots are not dangerous to your health. They are permanent skin changes that affect how your skin looks.

 

When to Contact a Medical Professional

 

Call your provider if:

  • You have liver spots and want them removed
  • You develop any new symptoms, especially changes in the appearance of a liver spot

 

Prevention

 

Protect your skin from the sun by taking the following steps:

  • Cover your skin with clothing such as hats, long-sleeved shirts, long skirts, or pants.
  • Try to avoid the sun at midday, when sunlight is strongest.
  • Use sunglasses to protect your eyes.
  • Use high-quality broad-spectrum sunscreens that have an SPF rating of at least 30. Apply sunscreen at least 30 minutes before you go out in the sun. Reapply it often. Also use sunscreen on cloudy days and in the winter.

 

 

References

Dinulos JGH. Light-related diseases and disorders of pigmentation. In: Dinulos JGH, ed. Habif's Clinical Dermatology. 7th ed. Philadelphia, PA: Elsevier; 2021:chap 19.

James WD, Elston DM, Treat JR, Rosenbach MA, Neuhaus IM. Melanocytic nevi and neoplasms. In: James WD, Elston DM, Treat JR, Rosenbach MA, Neuhaus IM, eds. Andrews' Diseases of the Skin: Clinical Dermatology. 13th ed. Philadelphia, PA: Elsevier; 2020:chap 30.

BACK TO TOPText only

 
  • Lentigo - solar on the back

    Lentigo - solar on the back

    illustration

  • Lentigo - solar with erythema on the arm

    Lentigo - solar with erythema on the arm

    illustration

    • Lentigo - solar on the back

      Lentigo - solar on the back

      illustration

    • Lentigo - solar with erythema on the arm

      Lentigo - solar with erythema on the arm

      illustration

    A Closer Look

     

      Talking to your MD

       

        Self Care

         

          Tests for Liver spots

           
             

            Review Date: 11/10/2020

            Reviewed By: Ramin Fathi, MD, FAAD, Director, Phoenix Surgical Dermatology Group, Phoenix, AZ. Also reviewed by David Zieve, MD, MHA, Medical Director, Brenda Conaway, Editorial Director, and the A.D.A.M. Editorial team.

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