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Lentigines (Age Spots, Liver Spots)

Lentigines (also referred to as sun spots or liver spots) are small, flat, round spots on the skin that begin to appear later in life in sun-exposed areas. They are particularly common on the face, neck, arms, and backs of the hands, usually sparing the knuckles. A single spot is referred to as a lentigo.

Lentigines are thought to be caused by years of sunlight exposure. The sun damages the pigment-producing cells in the skin (melanocytes), causing them to over-produce pigment in sun exposed areas. The spots may increase in size over time and sometimes join together to create larger spots. They may resemble freckles but are usually darker and have a more consistent color throughout the spot.

Sun Avoidance

Practice sun protection to prevent new lentigines from appearing and prevent further darkening or growth of the existing spots. This includes the use of broad-spectrum sunscreens and limiting exposure to sunlight.

Treatment

Lentigines are benign, meaning they do not cause any harm. However, some people seek treatment to improve their appearance. There are several possible treatments for lentigines.

If there is single lentigo you wish to remove, your doctor may recommend a procedure that can be performed quickly in the office. Such procedures include cryotherapy, chemical peels, and laser therapy.

Medications called bleaching agents can be applied to the skin to make lentigines fade. Although they will not get rid of the lesion completely, they can make it less visible. The most commonly used bleaching agent is hydroquinone. There are also agents that combine several active ingredients, such as Solage. Solage combines tretinoin (a topical retinoid) and mequinol for improved results.

Your doctor will recommend a treatment that is best suited to your specific medical needs and personal choices. Contact your doctor if your lesions return after being treated.

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© 2010 Vivacare. Last updated June 2, 2011.

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