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Liver spots

Liver spots (so called “age spots” or “lentigo senilis”) are not really skin disease but it is very specific common skin condition characterized by a lesion which is induced by exposure to the sun. Although they called “liver spots”, they have no connection to liver or to liver functions. Liver spots are caused by an excess production of melanin. Actually “age spots” are just benign and harmless type of epidermal skin pigmentation lesions. Women are sensitive to “age spots” mainly for cosmetic reasons (especially if they appear on visible skin locations).

“Age spots” are isolated brown skin pigmentation – they are very similar to freckles but much larger and darker than the freckles. Usually liver spots are flat darker areas of skin (in different sizes and shapes) surrounded by normal healthy skin – they can differ in color ranging anywhere from light tan to black. Often “age spots” appear in women of middle age and more frequently in older women (after 60).

“Age spots” appear generally on sun-exposed areas in women with specific genetic tendency to hyper pigmentation. Most common locations of liver spots are face, back of hands, forearms, shoulders and the upper portion of the trunk.

Liver Spots

Liver Spots causes

“Age spots” are the result of melanin increased activity or skin increased sensitivity to pigmentation. In general the melanin is the primary determinant of skin color – in the skin it is produced by melanocytes. Melanin is also responsible for hair color. Women with different type of skin usually have different amount of melanin – women with darker skin have increased amount of melanin and women with lighter skin usually have less melanin.

Skin melanin is very important because it is also protecting from ultraviolet rays from the sun but accumulated sun exposure (during long life) could trigger liver spots development. Actually UV rays cause increased amount of melanin which is responsible for “age spots”.

Aging women are losing skin elasticity and ability to regenerate skin cells damaged by ultraviolet ray. On-going sun exposure and increased melanin give the epidermis a tan color to protect the deeper layer of the skin from the harm of UV light rays.

Some women suffer from genetic predisposition to liver spots and in their family majority of women have so called “age spot”.

Liver Spots risk factors

Intensive sun exposure
Frequent unprotected sun exposure is risky enough to develop “age spots”. Women of certain professions are forced to spend a lot of time under UV rays – it should be considered as a risk factor for “age spots”.

Age
Aging women skin ability to regenerate diminishes from exceeded intensive sun exposure is reduced – this is why liver spots could be discovered in older women.

Modern skin tanning
Modern tanning beds are also considered as a risk factor for liver spots development because tanning also can trigger increased melanin production and increased melanin activity in the skin.

Fair skin
Women with fare sensitive skin have increased sensitivity to sun exposure and at the same time they have increased risk for liver spots development.

Liver Spots symptoms

Liver spots usually occur on areas that have been exposed to the sun – it is flat painless harmless spots of different sizes and different colors. Women could have brown or light brown or gray or black spots on the skin.

Treatment

Skin experts consider liver spots harmless condition which does not need any medical treatment. However cosmetic procedures can be recommended.

“Age spots” can be lightened with several medical and not medical products and they can be also removed (if needed depending on women preferences).

Topical applications (bleaching creams, natural remedies) can lighten liver spots. Depending on sizes and intensity of color, satisfactory effect could be reached after few months or after 1-2 years.

Chemical peeling is another method of removing the liver spots – just recommended chemical solutions should be applied directly on spots to facilitate peeling of the blemished skin.

Large unpleasant liver spots can be removed surgically. Cryosurgery is the most common method used for spots removal. Modern method of spots removal is laser therapy when laser lights are directed to needed areas.

Prevention

Not always “age spots” can be prevented (especially if you have genetic predisposition or if you are spending a lot of time under sun exposure) but you can reduce your chances of getting age spots.

  • Never forget sunscreen (both UVA and UVB protection) before going out (at least 30 minutes before sun exposure and at least with sun protection factor 20). During hot summer season sunscreen should be applied every two hours and more often during summer swimming.
  • Avoid sun exposure during intense risky time – from 10 a.m. to 15 p.m.
  • Use sun protection clothing (big hats, light pants and long-sleeved shirts) during summer season.

Prognosis

Liver spots are usually benign and harmless but very rare “age spots” can make skin cancer more difficult to diagnose.


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