Liver spots, also known as age spots and solar lentigines, are flat, brown, gray or black spots that generally occur on the face, shoulders, hands and arms. They differ in size and normally occur in those parts which are exposed to the sun. Liver spots can be commonly found to occur in individuals over the age of forty years, but can affect younger adults as well.
The colored patches that appear on the face and other areas of the body are generally not serious and can be commonly seen in individuals with fair skin. Liver spots can appear like cancerous growths. Liver spots can look like tiny freckles or grow to be an inch in size. The number of lover spots can also increase with an increased age.
Even though liver spots do not require treatment, one may remove or lighten them with the use of skin bleaching products, for cosmetic reasons and since they can appear on the face. It is however best to prevent liver spots by using sunscreen and avoid excessive exposure to sun and thus ensure that the skin maintains the youthful and vibrant appearance.
What do liver spots look like?
Individuals with a fair complexion are normally prone to develop liver spots, but people with darker skin can develop them as well. Liver spots:
- Are generally black, brown or gray
- Are oval, flat sections of excessive pigmentation
- Can be the size of freckles or grow to half an inch or an inch across. When they appear as a cluster they are easily visible
- Generally tend to occur on the skin areas that has been exposed to the sun over a period of many years, like the face, the upper part of the feet, the upper back, the backs of hands and the shoulders
Liver spots do not cause any damage to one’s health and hence do not require treatment. However, liver spots that have changed in appearance or are darker than usual have to be checked by a doctor to verify whether it is melanoma (skin cancer) or not. It is important to visit a doctor for evaluation if the dark spots are:
- Darkly pigmented
- Result in bleeding, itching, tenderness or redness
- Have irregular borders
- Are quickly increasing in shape and size
- Have an abnormal combination of colors
Causes of liver spots
Liver spots are caused due to exposure to UV or ultraviolet light from the sun over a period of several years. It can also result from excessive use of tanning beds and tanning lamps.
The epidermis or the upper layer of the skin contains a pigment known as melanin, which gives the skin its color. The manufacture of melanin is hastened by ultraviolet light, resulting in the development of a tan that shield the deeper layers of the skin from being exposed to ultraviolet light.
Frequent and persistent exposure to the sun on certain parts of the skin results in the ‘clumping’ or excessive manufacture of melanin in higher concentrations in those areas, leading to the formation of liver spots. Additionally, one can also develop liver spots as one tends to grow older.
A genetic predisposition to liver spots also places one at a greater vulnerability to develop liver spots as compared to others.
Anyone can develop liver spots on the face and other exposed areas of the skin. However, individuals who have a history of sunburn or intense and frequent cases of sun exposure, and those with fair or light colored skin are at greater risk to develop liver spots as compared with others.
Liver spots removal
Liver spots affect the face and other parts of the body. In case, facial liver spots are unsightly to look at, then one may undergo treatment to lighten or remove them. Melanin is present in the upper layer of the skin and hence all treatments to correct liver spots have to penetrate the epidermis.
Some of the ways to treat liver spots are as follows:
- Retinoids, prescription bleaching creams and mild steroids can be use to clear the liver spots over a period of many months. Additionally, one needs to use sun protection measures such as sunscreen with an SPF of 30.
- Chemical peel involves application of an acid to burn the epidermis so as to reach the liver spots. The skin will peel and new skin will develop in its place. Many treatments are needed before results can be noticed. It is important to use sun protection after this treatment
- Cryotherapy or freezing involves the use of liquid nitrogen or other freezing substances to destroy the additional pigment. Healing of the skin results in lighter colored skin.
- The melanin manufacturing cells can be destroyed via laser therapy and the skin remains undamaged. Many sessions are required. The liver spots eventually disappear within a few weeks or months post treatment
- Dermabrasion involves removal of the surface of the affected skin with a rapidly rotating brush. The skin heals and new skin grows in its place.
Liver spots pictures