Skin and liver spots

Skin spots can appear on the body in many different forms and colours.

Overview

Skin spots can appear on the body in many different forms and colours. The best known are small brown liver spots; these are normal and almost everybody has them. Skin spots should be carefully monitored as they can degenerate.

Symptoms

Liver spots
  • Small, brown, palpable, round spots
  • Can grow bigger slowly
Café au lait spots
  • Uniformly light-brown and sharply demarcated spots
  • Flat; not palpable
  • Benign
Vitiligo
  • Individual white patches on otherwise tanned skin, sharply demarcated
  • Autoimmune disorder
  • Not life-threatening but often a cosmetic problem
Age spots
  • Sharply demarcated, can be round or irregular
  • Light brown to dark brown
  • Appear on sun-exposed areas of the skin
  • Mostly on the backs of the hands, forearms and face
  • After many years, they can turn into an early form of melanoma (lentigo maligna)
Port-wine stains
  • Red, small or big “flame-like” stains
  • Congenital, harmless, but can be a cosmetic problem
Haemangiomas
  • Collection of small blood vessels
  • Harmless, but can grow bigger fast
  • Common in newborns, sometimes disappear on their own
Skin cancer
  • Very dark to black spots (rarely also whitish spots)
  • Appear suddenly, grow fast
  • Asymmetrical, no sharply demarcated borders, different colours
  • Can spontaneously bleed, become infected, burn or itch

Causes and treatment

Causes

Liver spots, café au lait spots
  • Harmless skin blemishes
  • Increase in melanin-producing cells (melanocytes)
Vitiligo
  • Autoimmune disorder
  • Family history
Age spots
  • Caused by regular exposure to the sun
  • Deposits of brown pigment in skin cells
Port-wine stains
  • Mostly congenital
  • Dilated blood vessels
Haemangiomas
  • Frequently congenital
  • Collection of small blood vessels
Skin cancer
  • Damage by UV rays
  • Skin cells degenerate and multiply uncontrollably

Further treatment by your doctor / in hospital

Possible tests
  • Examination of the skin spot with a special lens (dermatoscope)
  • Removal of a tissue sample to examine under a microscope (biopsy)
Possible therapies
  • Removal of spots (small operation)
  • Cryotherapy (freezing)
  • Radiation therapy

What can I do myself?

  • Observe and monitor skin spots
    • New spot?
    • Growing bigger fast?
    • Change in form / colour?
  • Protection against UV rays
    • Sunscreen
    • Clothes
    • Hat
  • Skin moisturiser

When to see a doctor?

Prominent liver spots:

  • Very big or growing bigger
  • New spot
  • Irregular colour, very dark
  • Not round or oval but “cloudy” form

Further information

Krebsliga
www.swisscancer.ch

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CSS offers no guarantee for the accuracy and completeness of the information. The information published is no substitute for professional advice from a doctor or pharmacist.

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