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Liver spots

Sun-induced skin changes - liver spots; Senile or solar 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 if you have a liver spot that looks irregular.

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:

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.
  • Use sunglasses to protect your eyes.
  • Try to avoid the sun at midday, when sunlight is strongest.
  • Use high-quality broad-spectrum sunscreens that have an SPF rating of at least 30. Apply sunscreen at least a half hour before you go out in the sun. Reapply it often. Use sunscreen in the winter, too.

References

Habif TP. Light-related diseases and disorders of pigmentation. In: Habif TP, ed. Clinical Dermatology. 6th ed. Philadelphia, PA: Elsevier; 2016:chap 19.

James WD, Berger TG, Elston DM. Melanocytic nevi and neoplasms. In: James WD, Berger TG, Elston DM, eds. Andrews' Diseases of the Skin. 12th ed. Philadelphia, PA: Elsevier; 2016:chap 30.

    • Lentigo, solar on the back

      Lentigo, solar on the back - illustration

      A lentigo, sometimes called an age spot or freckle, is the result of cumulative damage to the skin by sunlight. It consists of flat spots with increased pigmentation. Some spots may be fairly light, while others are darker. The edges are seldom uniform.

      Lentigo, solar on the back

      illustration

    • Lentigo, solar with erythema on the arm

      Lentigo, solar with erythema on the arm - illustration

      A lentigo, sometimes called an age spot or freckle, is the result of cumulative damage to the skin by sunlight. It consists of flat spots with increased pigmentation. Some spots may be fairly light, while others are darker. The edges are seldom uniform.

      Lentigo, solar with erythema on the arm

      illustration

      • Lentigo, solar on the back

        Lentigo, solar on the back - illustration

        A lentigo, sometimes called an age spot or freckle, is the result of cumulative damage to the skin by sunlight. It consists of flat spots with increased pigmentation. Some spots may be fairly light, while others are darker. The edges are seldom uniform.

        Lentigo, solar on the back

        illustration

      • Lentigo, solar with erythema on the arm

        Lentigo, solar with erythema on the arm - illustration

        A lentigo, sometimes called an age spot or freckle, is the result of cumulative damage to the skin by sunlight. It consists of flat spots with increased pigmentation. Some spots may be fairly light, while others are darker. The edges are seldom uniform.

        Lentigo, solar with erythema on the arm

        illustration

      Review Date: 10/24/2016

      Reviewed By: David L. Swanson, MD, Vice Chair of Medical Dermatology, Associate Professor of Dermatology, Mayo Medical School, Scottsdale, AZ. Also reviewed by David Zieve, MD, MHA, Isla Ogilvie, PhD, and the A.D.A.M. Editorial team.

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