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Age Spots(Liver Spots) 

Age spots are also known as liver spots or solar lentigines (brown color patches) that occur on the skin. They may develop slowly over the years or appear suddenly. The chances of developing age spots increase with age. People with lighter skin are more likely to develop age spots when compared to dark skinned people as they lack photoprotection from natural pigments.

Age spots are flat, oval in shape and darker than the surrounding skin. They are harmless changes in the skin and appear as cancerous growths. In some people, age spots can cause emotional distress. These spots can be treated with the application of topical preparations and medical procedures.

Signs and Symptoms 

Age spots are:

  • Seen on arms, hands, face, neck and chest
  • Brown to black in color
  • Painless
  • Patchy
  • Flat

Causes

The following are the causes of age spots:

  • Excessive melanin production is one of the main causes of age spots
  • Age spots are caused by long term exposure of the skin to ultraviolet (UV) light
  • The age spots are mostly seen in people with advanced age, as the aging of skin causes age spots
  • Frequent exposure to tanning beds causes skin damage leading to age spots
  • People with family history of age spots are more likely to develop this condition

Risk Factors 

The following are the risk factors of age spots:

  • Age older than 40 years
  • History of sun exposure
  • History of tanning bed
  • Genetics
  • Fair skin

Complications 

Complications of age spots include:

  • Some people may develop emotional distress due to age spots
  • In some cases, this skin condition may lead to skin cancer

Diagnosis

The doctor may:

  • Ask for patient’s age, history of exposure to sun light and tanning beds
  • Look for the age spots in the affected area for color, size and shape

Skin Biopsy:

  • A biopsy is performed by the doctor on an outpatient basis using a local anesthetic
  • Biopsy of the skin may be done by the doctor to distinguish age spots from other skin conditions such as skin cancer

Treatment 

Home Remedies:

  • Age spots can be made less visible with bleaching creams and lotions that are available in the market
  • Spots can be covered using cosmetic products such as a concealer. However, it just masks the discoloration but doesn't treat the age spots

Medical Procedures:

Following procedures are used to treat age spots:

  • The age spots can be treated with bleaching agents (hydroquinone), retinoids, and mild steroids alone or in combination to make them disappear
  • The doctor may treat the age spots by destructing melanin producing melanocytes by laser and light pulsed light therapy
  • A single or small group of age spots can be treated with application of liquid nitrogen or any freezing agent by a technique called freezing (cryotherapy)
  • The surface skin of the age spots may be removed and replaced with new skin. This is done with a rapidly rotating brush by the technique of dermabrasion
  • The repeated application of acid containing formulations burn the surface skin and lightens the skin spots, and this technique is called chemical peel

After any medical procedure, it is very important to protect the healing skin from sun damage.

Prevention

By avoiding the exposure to sun and UV light, age spots can be prevented. Following are the simple measures to prevent exposure to sun and UV light:

  • Applying sunscreen with a sun protection factor (SPF) 30, UVA and UVB protection
  • Avoiding exposure to midday sunlight between 10 am to 3 pm
  • Wearing sunglasses, long-sleeved shirts, and hats
  • Applying sunscreen 30 minutes before going out
  • Using sunscreen in winters
  • Staying indoors
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