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Age Spots

Age Spots

Alternate Names

  • solar lentigo
  • solar lentigines
  • senile lentigo
  • liver spots
  • Aging spots


Age spots are flat, brown patches of skin that occur in irregular shapes. They appear most commonly on the arms, face, and back of the hands.

What is going on in the body?

Age spots are caused by an increased number of pigment-producing cells in the skin. They are thought to occur in response to long-term sun damage and are associated with aging of the skin. They are not harmful and do not represent skin cancer.


What are the causes and risks of the symptom?

The skin tends to get thinner with age. This causes older people to have pale, translucent skin. The number of pigment, or color-containing, cells decreases. The color-containing cells that are left tend to get bigger and group together as age spots. Chronic sun damage speeds up the development of these spots.


What can be done to prevent the symptom?

Long-term sun protection, including the use of appropriate sunscreen products, can help prevent age spots.


How is the symptom diagnosed?

A healthcare professional can diagnose age spots by examining the person's skin.

Long Term Effects

What are the long-term effects of the symptom?

Age spots cause no long-term effects.

Other Risks

What are the risks to others?

Age spots are not contagious and cause no risk to others.


What are the treatments for the symptom?

Age spots are not generally treated, unless the individual requests treatment for cosmetic reasons. Treatments to remove age spots include the following:
  • application of a small amount of acid
  • cryotherapy, which uses the cold from liquid nitrogen to remove the spot
  • laser surgery
  • bleaching cream, which is generally used over a period of several months

Side Effects

What are the side effects of the treatments?

Sometimes scarring or excessive pigment loss occurs as a complication of treatment.

After Treatment

What happens after treatment for the symptom?

Methods of treatment that destroy the outer layer of skin create blisters and a fine peeling of the pigmented skin tissue. After recovery, an individual can return to normal activities.


How is the symptom monitored?

Any significant change in a skin lesion should be reported to a healthcare professional. If there is any suspicion that the lesion may represent cancer rather than an age spot, a skin biopsy can be done.

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