A liver spot, also called nevus or naevus, is a change in the skin’s pigmentation. The liver spot itself is an enlarged accumulation of pigmented skin cells, known as hyper-pigmentation. This accumulation is often the cause of the brown colour seen in these spots. The colour of the liver is somewhat similar to the liver spots, hence the name.
Appears during the first years
Most of the liver spots appear a few years after birth. Commonly, liver spots will form in different places on the body up until the 30’s. All humans develop liver spots and pigment changes, they are completely normal parts of the body, the skin and the pigmentation. A person totally without pigmentation, known as albino, does not develop liver spots. If you start counting the number of skin spots, the average will be somewhere between 50-100 of them. Even dark-skinned people develop big numbers of pigmented spots, but for logical reasons these are less apparent.
This is what liver spots looks like
Normally they are light brown in colour and have an irregular shape, approximately like a stain on a piece of cloth. The contours can be well defined or fade into the normal pigmentation of the skin. The spots are often between 4 and 10 square centimetres in size, and are commonly found on the abdomen, buttocks and back. Two typical liver spots:
Light-coloured liver spot
Different kinds of liver spots
The description given above illustrates an average liver spot. However, they can appear widely different in different people. The colour can be a striking purple-red and very visible. Sometimes you can see people with this kind of pigment change in the face, which can be an aesthetically unfavourable place. Children can be born with problematic pigment changes like that, and these should be surgically removed at an early stage.
Pigment changes are changes in the skin cells which can lead to cancer. Generally, it can be said that pigment changes and liver spots with strong colouration and a peculiar, protruding shape has a larger tendency for dangerous cell changes. If the liver spot also itches or changes shape and colour there is an increased the risk of cancer in the skin cells. It is recommended to always have a doctor look at skin changes and liver spots that causes concern, so they can make a correct assessment. Smaller pigment changes such as birthmarks can be easily removed preventative measure, if changes appear. Removing these costs around £100 at a private plastic surgery, if you are too impatient to wait for the public health care system to assess you and take action.
The sun’s significance in regards to liver spots
The UV-rays from the sun activates the body’s protection against the skin getting sunburned. Increased pigmentation increases the skin’s resilience against the sun and thereby protects against burns. Increased pigmentation also leads to an increased number of pigment patches and an increase in the areas of hyperpigmentation. The liver spots might even multiply with frequent sunbathing. The colour from the sun increases the level of pigments in the liver spots, making them just as visible in contrast to the surrounding skin, with or without a sunburn. Ergo, it is not possible to cover liver spots by getting tanned. Focus on protecting your skin from sunburns as much as possible, to reduce the risk of cancer, as fewer pigment changes are stimulated.
It is possible to lighten liver spots
Preventing liver spots can be done by using a higher SPF (sun protection factor) or by protecting yourself from the sun in other ways. For the liver spots or pigment changes that has already occurred, there are treatments to reduce their visibility. Today there are many serious manufacturers of skin care products, creams and gels, which offer different ways of lightening the skin on a liver spot. Ordinarily, several substances that separately lightens the skin are combined in one lotion, which can give good results. The best lotions for pigment patches can often lighten the spots by one or a couple of nuances. This is often enough to reduce the pigmented area’s visibility from 100% – 30%. When using a skin lightening lotion, it is important to follow the instructions and not overdo it. Also, reducing the risk of allergic reactions by using well known brands with tested lotions, is important. To lighten a skin patch with a satisfactory result can, using certain lotions, be done in 1-3 treatments. Though some lotions and treatments might require daily application of the lotion for weeks or months.