Liver spots are flat, pigmented areas on the skin. They are usually benign and not considered a medical concern, although many patients consider them embarrassing and seek treatment to have the blemishes faded or removed.
Causes of Liver Spots
Liver spots have nothing to do with the liver. It was previously believed that liver spots were a result of liver disease, which is where they get their name. Liver spots may also be called age spots because they are usually found more often as people age. However, they are not caused by age.
Instead, they are caused by exposure to the sun. Older individuals who have experienced greater sun exposure may be at a greater risk of liver spots than younger individuals and older individuals who took precaution against sun damage throughout their life.
The ultraviolet rays from the sun stimulate the production of melanin (pigment that gives skin its color), which may lead to clumps of melanin that appear as liver spots.
Appearance of Liver Spots
The flat, pigmented blemishes on the skin may be black, brown or grey. Again, they are not related to the liver, although they may have a similar color.
Liver spots are not a sign of skin cancer, although individuals who have liver spots may be at a greater risk of skin cancer. Both conditions are caused by exposure to the sun, so those who have liver spots and other symptoms of sun damage are often encouraged to be screened for skin cancer as a precaution.
Other signs of sun damage include wrinkles, fine lines, freckles, etc.
Treating Liver Spots
Most treatments for liver spots are designed to fade the blemishes. Mediations may be purchased over-the-counter, while some may require a prescription. Bleaching creams may be effective in fading liver spots so they are less noticeable.
Cosmetic treatments such as laser resurfacing, chemical peels and dermabrasion may also be effective in fading or removing liver spots. Laser resurfacing destroys the melanocytes responsible for the extra pigment in the skin. Chemical peels and dermabrasion produce a controlled damage to the top layer of skin so that new skin grows in its place.
Wearing sunscreen and avoiding excessive sun exposure may help to prevent liver spots. Fair skinned individuals and those who work outdoors are encouraged to take precautions against excessive sun exposure, as they may be at greater risk of liver spots and other symptoms of sun damage.
For more information about liver spots, patients are encouraged to seek consultation with a skincare professional. SkinCareGuide.com also offers further information on the causes, symptoms and treatments associated with liver spots.