Liver spots are darkened patches of skin. They often develop on areas that have been exposed to ultraviolet (UV) light. Contrary to the name, liver spots don’t have to do with your liver’s function. While liver spots don’t usually need treatment, you may want to treat them for cosmetic reasons. A dermatologist can provide treatment options.
Liver spots are patches of darker skin. They vary in size from about a tenth of an inch (one-quarter centimeter) to half an inch (one centimeter) across. They often show up on skin areas that have sun exposure, such as your face, hands or arms.
Although they are called liver spots, these skin patches have nothing to do with your liver except for having a similar color, which may be tan to dark brown. Other names for liver spots include age spots, sun spots and solar lentigines (len-TIJ-a-neez).
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Liver spots are more common in adults over 50. But anyone can get them. You're more likely to get liver spots if you:
Liver spots appear in areas where melanin has gathered or clumped. Melanin is the substance that gives your skin pigment.
When ultraviolet (UV) light hits your skin, it speeds up melanin production. Over time, this process may lead to sun spots. You may also develop liver spots after medical treatments such as radiation therapy.
Liver spots may:
Liver spots don’t cause any uncomfortable physical symptoms such as pain or itching. The primary symptoms have to do with appearance.
Your healthcare provider can usually identify liver spots by looking at them. If there is any concern that a dark skin patch may be cancerous, your provider can perform a skin biopsy.
During a biopsy, your healthcare provider removes a small skin sample. Then your provider sends the skin sample to a lab for evaluation. By looking at your skin under a microscope, healthcare providers can identify or rule out skin cancer and conditions such as infections.
You usually don’t need treatment for solar lentigines. But you may want to lighten their appearance for cosmetic reasons.
Liver spot treatment might include:
Some skin lightening products can come with serious side effects. If a skin lightening cream contains mercury, it could damage your kidneys or nerves.
Always ask your dermatologist for recommendations before using a new skin care product. When buying skin care products, look for ingredients that could indicate mercury, including:
True age spots don’t lead to dangerous symptoms. Because age spots can look similar to certain types of skin cancer, it’s important to see a dermatologist (doctor specializing in skin) for diagnosis. If you have age spots that darken or change, see a dermatologist right away.
The most effective way to prevent liver spots is to protect yourself from UV light and sun damage. You should:
Some people develop age spots again after treatment. You are more likely to get new age spots if you don’t protect your skin from UV light.
Schedule an appointment with your healthcare provider if you have a liver spot that is:
A note from Cleveland Clinic
Liver spots are flat, dark patches of skin. They are not dangerous or uncomfortable. But you may want treatment for cosmetic reasons. Your dermatologist can recommend creams, lotions, gels or in-office procedures to lighten skin. Skin lightening treatments are effective, but it may take a few months to see results. You can lower the chances that age spots will return after treatment by protecting your skin from UV light.
Last reviewed by a Cleveland Clinic medical professional on 08/17/2021.
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