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Lentigo, solar on the back
Lentigo, solar on the back


Lentigo, solar with erythema on the arm
Lentigo, solar with erythema on the arm


Definition:

Liver spots are flat, brown-black spots that usually occur in sun-exposed areas of the body. They are unrelated to the liver or liver function.



Alternative Names:

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



Causes, incidence, and risk factors:

Liver spots are changes in skin color that occur in older skin. The increased color may be brought on by aging, exposure to the sun or other forms of ultraviolet light, or other unknown causes.

Liver spots are extremely 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:

Skin lesion that is:

  • A flat patch or area of skin color change (macule )
  • Light brown to black
  • On the hands, arms, or forehead
  • Painless


Signs and tests:

A diagnosis is based on the appearance of the skin, especially if you are over 40 and have had a lot of sun exposure over the years. A liver spot that looks irregular may be biopsied to confirm that it is not skin cancer.



Treatment:

No treatment is needed in most cases. You can improve the cosmetic appearance of your skin by using skin bleaching lotions or creams. Freezing (cryotherapy ) or laser treatment may be recommended to destroy the liver spots.



Support Groups:



Expectations (prognosis):

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



Complications:

Liver spots are harmless and painless, but they may affect the appearance. This can cause emotional distress.

Occasionally, liver spots may make it difficult to diagnose skin cancers.



Calling your health care provider:

Call for an appointment with your health care provider if:

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


Prevention:

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

  • Wear protective clothing such as hats, long-sleeved shirts, long skirts, or pants.
  • Use sunglasses to protect your eyes.
  • Try to avoid sun exposure at midday, when sunlight is most intense.
  • Use high quality sunscreens, preferably with SPF (sun protection factor) ratings of at least 30. Apply sunscreen at least a half hour before exposure, and reapply frequently. Use sunscreen in the winter, too.



Review Date: 10/3/2008
Reviewed By: Kevin Berman, MD, PhD, Atlanta Center for Dermatologic Disease, Atlanta, GA. Review provided by VeriMed Healthcare Network. Also reviewed by David Zieve, MD, MHA, Medical Director, A.D.A.M., Inc.

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.
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