Age spots (Liver Spots)

What are Age Spots?

Age spots (liver spots) are black, tan, or brown spots on the skin. They typically develop on the shoulders, arms, hands, and face, upper back as well as other areas of the body that are most often exposed to sunlight.

These spots, which can vary in size, are common amongst adults who are older than 50 years of age. However, individuals who are under 50 years of age can also develop age spots, particularly if they get a lot of sun exposure.

Liver spots on different parts of the body are linked to the exposure to ultraviolet light from the sun or from artificial sources like tanning lamps/beds.

What are the Symptoms of Age Spots?

Age spots are more likely to develop on individuals who have a fair complexion, though they could also develop in those who have darker skin.

These are oval, flat spots of pigmentation, and they are typically black, brown, or tan in color. They can be anywhere from the size of a freckle to over ½” (13mm) in diameter. They may also form in groups and present the same texture of the rest of the skin.

If your age spots are very dark, if they have a border that is irregularly shaped, if they contain a strange combination of colors, or if you also experience bleeding, tenderness, redness, or itching, contact your doctor. Also, if the spots are increasing in size rapidly, or if they have changed in appearance, have them examined to be certain that they are not a sign of melanoma (skin cancer).

Liver spots are painless.

Age Spots Causes

Age spots (also called liver spots) appear as small pigmented round spots on exposed areas of the skin. Most age spots appear in areas that are exposed to the sun, such as your arms, hands, face, and shoulders, which is the main cause of this condition.

Age spots appear on the skin as a result of overproduction of melanin (pigmentation of the skin). The two major causes of age spots are aging and exposure to the sun. While younger people are susceptible to age spots, they occur more frequently in adults over 40 years of age. Age spots are caused by exposure to ultraviolet (UV) radiation.

You are more likely to get age spots if you:

  • Have had a lot of exposure to the sun
  • Have skin tone that is fair
  • Use indoor tanning beds
  • Have had radiation therapy.

The more exposure you have to UV radiation, the more likely you are to develop age spots. Protecting your skin while outdoors can help prevent age spots.

How is Age Spots (Liver Spots) Treated?

Since age spots (liver spots) are usually harmless, they do not require any treatment.

Treatment includes

However, if you wish to lighten them, you can use products that bleach the skin, or you can have them removed. Age spots can also be prevented by applying sunscreen when you are going to be out in the sun, or by avoiding extended periods of sun exposure.

Age Spots Prevention

Age spots are caused by exposure to the sun. The best way to prevent age spots from forming is covering for your skin while you are outside during the daytime hours.

You can protect your skin by doing the following:

  • Keeping your skin covered while you are outside during the day using protective clothing such as long-sleeved shirts, pants or long skirts, and hats.
  • To protect your eyes, always wear sunglasses when outdoors during the day.
  • Sunlight is strongest during the midday hours (from 1:00 – 3:00); try to avoid being in the sun during this time.
  • If you are outside during midday hours, be sure to protect your skin.
  • Use sunscreen when you are outdoors. You should use a sunscreen with a rating of at least Sun Protection
  • Factor (SPF) 30. Apply sunscreen prior to going outside and reapply frequently while outdoors. Sunscreen should be used year round.

Protecting your skin while outdoors can not only prevent age spots, but also help protect against the likelihood of skin cancer.

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Last Reviewed:
September 11, 2016
Last Updated:
November 02, 2017
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