Liver spots, also known as senile lentigines, are harmless patches of increased pigmentation that range from freckle-size to a few inches across.
Liver spots are extremely common after the age of 55 and occur most commonly on the backs of hands or the forehead. Although frequently associated with overexposure to sun, they also occur from unknown causes.
Liver spots, also called old age spots, result from long-term exposure to sunlight – not liver disease. They tend to increase in number with age and are more prominent in fair-skinned people.
They may be called liver spots because they were once thought to be a sign of a malfunctioning liver and they are often dark red or brown, the color of liver.
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 do not become cancerous. Still, if a spot changes in color, size, or shape, have it examined by your doctor.
Most people seek no treatment. For cosmetic reasons, liver spots can be lightened with skin-bleaching products or removed by freezing with liquid nitrogen (cryotherapy).
Re-occurrence or appearance of new spots may be minimized by using a high-protection sunscreen lotion (SPF 15 or greater).