Age spots

Age spots are also known as liver spots, senile lentigo, or sun spots. They are flat and appear brown, gray, or black in color. They mostly appear as black spots or black spots on face. The spots are commonly seen on areas exposed to sun such as face, hands, and shoulders. These spots are not associated with any liver disease, but still called liver spots.

Age spots are usually seen in individuals who have age more than 50. However, younger people can also get age spots if they are more exposed to sun.

These spots are commonly seen in people with fair complexion. The spots are:

  • flat and have same texture as rest of the skin
  • brown or black in color
  • painless

The spots are caused due to exposure to ultraviolet (UV) light for many years. UV light increases production of melanin (skin pigment), that becomes clumped leading to the development of age spots. Use of tanning beds or commercial tanning lamps can also cause age spots.

Anyone can develop age spots, but the risk increases if you:

  • have fair complexion
  • have frequent exposure to sun
  • history of sunburn

Generally, age spots are harmless and don’t require medical attention. However, to rule our conditions such as skin cancer, it is good to consult your doctor if the spots:

  • vary in volor and size
  • have irregular border
  • have dark pigmentation
  • are rapidly increasing in size
  • are painful, itchy, and bleeding

The age spots are diagnosed by visual examination and skin biopsy (a small sample of affected area is taken for microscopic analysis). The diagnosis is essential to rule out other conditions such as moles, seborrheic keratosis, and lentigo maligna melanoma (skin cancer).

The age spots are harmless and may not need treatment. However, if you feel it as an aesthetic concern, you can opt for the treatment to remove the spots.

Bleaching creams – Your doctor may prescribe bleaching creams to lighten the spots. You should apply sunscreen lotion as bleaching makes the skin more sensitive to UV damage.

Laser therapy – This therapy destroys melanin-producing cells without damaging the skin surface.

Dermabrasion – The therapy involves sanding down the skin surface with the help of a brush. A new layer of skin grows after removing the skin surface.

Chemical peel – Acid is applied on the skin to burn the outer layer of the skin where age spots are present. After peeling off the outer layer, new skin growth starts in its place. You need to protect your skin from sun exposure very strictly and there may be a chance of discoloration after the treatment.

These procedures may have side effects. So, it is necessary discuss your treatment options with your dermatologist and clearly state your expectations about the treatment.

You may not always prevent age spots but you can try some tips to reduce the risk.

  • Avoid sun exposure between 10 am to 3pm, as sun rays are more intense during these times.
  • Apply sunscreen lotion (with a sun protection factor 30) to the skin and wear sunglasses while going outdoors.
  • Wear protective clothing to cover the skin such as hats, long-sleeved shirts.