Age Spots (Liver Spots)
- By sahlhealth
- May 18, 2021
- 17 views
Age spots â€” also called liver spots and solar lentigines â€” are small dark areas on your skin. They vary in size and usually appear on the face, hands, shoulders and arms â€” areas most exposed to the sun.
Age spots are very common in adults older than 50. But younger people can get them too, especially if they spend a lot of time in the sun.
Age spots can look like cancerous growths. But true age spots are harmless and don’t need treatment. For cosmetic reasons, age spots can be lightened with skin-bleaching products or removed.
You can help prevent age spots by regularly using sunscreen and avoiding the sun.
Age spots may affect people of all skin types, but they're more common in people with light skin. Age spots:
Are flat, oval areas of increased pigmentation
Are usually tan, brown or black
Occur on skin that has had the most sun exposure over the years, such as the backs of hands, tops of feet, face, shoulders and upper back
Age spots range from freckle size to about a 1/2 inch (13 millimeters) across and can group together, making them more noticeable.
When to see a doctor
Age spots are usually harmless and don't require medical care. Have your doctor look at spots that are dark or have changed in appearance. These changes can be signs of melanoma, a serious form of skin cancer.
It's best to have any new skin changes evaluated by a doctor, especially if a spot:
- Is darkly pigmented
- Is rapidly increasing in size
- Has an irregular border
- Has an unusual combination of colors
- Is accompanied by itching, redness, tenderness or bleeding
Diagnosing age spots may include:
Visual inspection. Your doctor can usually diagnose age spots by looking at your skin.
Skin biopsy. Your doctor may do other tests, such as a skin biopsy, to help distinguish an age spot from other conditions, such as lentigo maligna, a type of skin cancer.
During a skin biopsy, your doctor takes a small sample of your skin (biopsy) for microscopic analysis. A skin biopsy is usually done in a doctor's office, using a local anesthetic.
If you want your age spots to be less noticeable, treatments are available to lighten or remove them. Since the pigment is located at the base of the epidermis â€” the topmost layer of skin â€” any treatments meant to lighten the age spots must penetrate this layer of skin.
Age spot treatments include:
Medications. Prescription bleaching creams (hydroquinone) used alone or with retinoids (tretinoin) and a mild steroid may gradually fade the spots over several months. Use of a broad-spectrum sunscreen with a sun protection factor (SPF) of at least 30 is strongly advised if you use medication treatments. The treatments may result in temporary itching, redness, burning or dryness.
Laser and intense pulsed light therapy. Laser and intense pulsed light therapies destroy melanin-producing cells (melanocytes) without damaging the skin's surface. Treatments with a laser or intense pulsed light typically require two to three sessions.
After treatment, age spots fade gradually over several weeks or months. Laser therapy has few side effects, but it may result in slight discoloration of the skin. Sun protection is necessary after laser or intense pulsed light therapy.
Freezing (cryotherapy). This procedure involves using a cotton-tipped swab to apply liquid nitrogen or another freezing agent to the age spots to destroy the extra pigment. As the area heals, the skin appears lighter. Freezing is typically used on a single age spot or a small grouping of age spots. The treatment may temporarily irritate the skin and poses a slight risk of permanent scarring or discoloration.
Dermabrasion and microdermabrasion. Dermabrasion consists of sanding down (planing) the surface layer of your skin with a rapidly rotating brush. This procedure removes the skin surface, and a new layer of skin grows in its place. You may need to undergo the procedure more than once. Temporary redness and scab formation can result from this treatment.
Microdermabrasion is a less aggressive approach that leaves mild skin blemishes with a smoother appearance. You'll need a series of procedures over months to get the full effect. If you have rosacea or tiny red veins on your face, this technique could make the condition worse.
Chemical peel. A chemical peel involves applying an acid, which burns the outer layer of your skin, to the age spots. As your skin peels, new skin forms to take its place. Several treatments may be necessary before you notice any results. Sun protection is strongly advised following this treatment. Temporary redness is likely, and there's a slight risk of permanent changes in skin color.
Because age spot treatments are considered cosmetic, your insurance may not pay for them. And because the procedures can have side effects, discuss your options carefully with a doctor who specializes in skin conditions (dermatologist). Also, make sure your dermatologist is specially trained and experienced in the technique you're considering.