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Liver spots

Liver spots are flat brown-black spots that usually occur in sun-exposed areas of the body. Liver spots, also called age spots, lentigines or lentigos, are sharply defined, rounded, brown or black, flat patches of skin. The epidermis (top surface layer) is expanding with more pigment, developing what looks like a large freckle. One may appear by itself, or as a few clustered together. They are unrelated to the liver or liver function. Many people have a hereditary predisposition to them. While liver spots may develop at an early age, even in childhood, they are more common in older people, especially those

who have spent too much time in the sun.

Liver spots mostly appear in areas consistently exposed to sunlight (the face and backs of hands, for example), although they also are occasionally found on less exposed areas. The spots are usually flat, tan or light brown, oval or irregularly shaped, and always have sharply defined borders. They range from about 1/8-inch to 1-inch in diameter. They do not darken in response to sunlight. Liver Spots are not cancerous but, if need be, they can be treated for cosmetic reasons. Fair-skinned people respond the best to treatment, which may include cryotherapy (freezing), laser therapy, and topical creams containing alpha hydroxy acids or retinoids Using sunscreen is the most significant preventive measure one can take to avoid new lesions. By minimizing the exposure to harmful ultraviolet rays (UV rays), even existing spots may fade. Liver spots are a result of your skin trying to protect itself from sun exposure by producing an overabundance of melanin. Melanin is the pigment in your skin responsible for “splotchy” or uneven tanning. Such “ brown or sun spots” may also be the telltale sign of accumulated wastes or some dysfunction.

Brown spots are visible pigmentary changes associated with mature and senile skin but the damage is not due to maturity, these spots and leathery skin are almost always the result of your body trying to protect itself from too much sun exposure. The increased dark yellow, light brown, yellowish brown pigmentation or age spots may be brought on or increased by over exposure to the sun or other forms of ultraviolet light, bad health, problems with the liver functions, or other causes, both known and unknown. Some of the alternative names for these maturity spots are sun-induced skin changes, senile lentigines; lentigos; brown spots, and skin spots-aging. Brown spots are extremely common after 55 years old. They occur most often on the backs of the hands, on the forearms, shoulder, face, and forehead. These are the areas of highest sun exposure. They are harmless and painless but may affect the cosmetic appearance.

Though most age spots are harmless blemishes, early stages of skin cancer can masquerade as innocent looking age spots. Your physician or a dermatologist should check any spot that enlarges, thickens, changes color, bleeds or itches. Irregular, dark spots that increase in size or change color or texture could be a warning about a potentially serious form of skin cancer. Have such changes checked immediately by a doctor. If a person’s spots really are just age spots, an assortment of treatments are available that can fade them or even remove them completely. There are also several nutrients that can prevent the sun damage that leads to age spots.

Liver spots are the yellowish-brown flat spots that resemble large freckles and are often considered to be caused by aging even though sun damage, not age, is the general cause of the spots. Such spots may also be caused by impaired liver function, too much sun or sun lamp exposure, and a dietary deficiency, or a variety of nutritional problems. As we advance in age our health changes, our metabolism changes and our liver may become so overloaded with toxins that it cannot efficiently process the toxins or help the body get of them. The oxidation process within your body and a lack of antioxidants also plays a role in this process. Liver spots are one of the results. Liver spots typically take years to form, though they have been found in young children, and eliminating the spots will also take time.

The most important step towards eliminating the spots is to first recognize them for what they are, then make a commitment to work on their elimination. As a preventative measure, always use a good sunscreen. Sunscreen should be applied at least one-half hour before sun exposure and it should be reapplied frequently. Do make a note that it is wise to use sunscreen in the winter as well as the summer, and always in high elevations. Always wear good large hats, long sleeved shirts, long skirts or pants, umbrellas, gloves, and any sort of clothing that will help protect your skin. It is no accident that large straw hats bonnets were popular among field workers in years gone by, long before many of us fell victim to the "culture of the sun."

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All information is intended for reference only. Please consult your physician for accurate medical advices and treatment. Copyright 2005,, all rights reserved. Last update: July 18, 2005