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.
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.
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.
Age spots are flat, brown areas of skin that can be up to an inch across. They do not itch or cause any pain.
A healthcare provider can diagnose age spots by examining the person's skin.
Long-term sun protection, including the use of appropriate sunscreen products, can help prevent age spots.
Age spots cause no long-term effects.
Age spots are not contagious and cause no risk to others.
Age spots are not generally treated, unless the individual requests treatment for cosmetic reasons. Treatments to remove age spots include the following:
Sometimes scarring or excessive pigment loss occurs as a complication of treatment.
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.
Any significant change in a skin lesion should be reported to the healthcare provider.
Author:Lynn West, MD
Editor:Ballenberg, Sally, BS
Reviewer:Eileen McLaughlin, RN, BSN