Liver spots

Definition

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

Alternative Names

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

Causes

Liver spots are changes in skin color that occur in older skin. The increased color 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:

Symptoms

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

Exams and Tests

Your doctor will diagnose the condition by how the skin looks, especially if you are over 40 and have had a lot of exposure to the sun. You may need a skin biopsy to confirm the diagnosis if a liver spot that looks irregular.

Treatment

No treatment is needed in most cases. You can improve the appearance of your skin by using skin bleaching lotions or creams. Most bleaching lotions 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 some people. See your health care provider before starting treatment if you are worried.

Freezing (cryotherapy) or laser treatment can be used to destroy the liver spots.

Outlook (Prognosis)

Liver spots are not medically dangerous. They are permanent skin changes that may affect the cosmetic appearance of the skin.

When to Contact a Medical Professional

Call your health care provider if:

Prevention

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

References

Rabinovitz HS, Barnhill RL. Benigh Melanocytic Neoplasms. In: Bolognia JL, Jorizzo JL, Schaffer JV, et al, eds.Dermatology. 3rd ed. Philadelphia, Pa: Mosby Elsevier; 2012:chap 112.

Habif TM. Light-related diseases and disorders of pigmentation. In: Habif TP, ed. Clinical Dermatology. 5th ed. Philadelphia, Pa: Mosby Elsevier;2009:chap 19.


Review Date: 11/20/2012
Reviewed By: Kevin Berman, MD, PhD, Atlanta Center for Dermatologic Disease, Atlanta, GA. Review provided by VeriMed Healthcare Network. Also reviewed by A.D.A.M. Health Solutions, Ebix, Inc., Editorial Team: David Zieve, MD, MHA, David R. Eltz, Stephanie Slon, and Nissi Wang.
The information provided herein should not be used during any medical emergency or for the diagnosis or treatment of any medical condition. A licensed medical professional should be consulted for diagnosis and treatment of any and all medical conditions. Call 911 for all medical emergencies. Links to other sites are provided for information only -- they do not constitute endorsements of those other sites. © 1997- A.D.A.M., Inc. Any duplication or distribution of the information contained herein is strictly prohibited.
adam.com