Liver spots - not a problem anymore
23 May 2012
Despite the name, liver spots are actually nothing to do with your liver. They have the name because they are a similar colour to liver and because they were once thought to be caused by liver problems. However, we now know this is not the case.
What Are Liver Spots?
As the skin ages it becomes less able to deal with the effects of the ultraviolet (UV) radiation of the sun and so sun burns and visibly sun damaged skin become more common. So, as we age, sometimes areas of the skin, like the back of the hands, that are frequently exposed to sunlight become damaged. This skin pigmentation condition happens when sun damage results in an increased number of melanocytes (the cells of the skin that contain melanin). Unlike a mole, the melanocytes are confined to one layer of the skin. As melanin is a coloured pigment, the area that contains the melanocytes is also coloured brown, red or black.
Are Liver Spots Dangerous?
Liver spots are not dangerous, but can be unsightly. They can sometimes hide evidence of other skin conditions such as skin cancer. The presence of liver spots can be an indication that you have other effects of sun damaged skin.
Can Liver Spots Be Removed?
If you have liver spots on the back of your hands or elsewhere, you may wish to have them removed. This is a very common practice and one that a skin specialist can help you with. Options for their removal include laser treatments that affect the skin's pigment, cryosurgery which removes the pigmented skin cells by freezing them, and chemical peels or microdermabrasion, both of which can reduce the appearance of liver spots by removing the top layer of skin cells. Skin bleaching creams should be regarded with caution, as they can often affect a larger region than intended.