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Birthmarks and Liver Spots

By: Jody Ehrhardt - Updated: 20 Sep 2012 | comments*Discuss
Birthmarks Liver Spots Nevi Age Spots

Birthmarks and liver spots are the terms used to describe the appearance of discoloration on the skin. However these two types of discoloration are actually very different. Birthmarks (medically known as nevi) are present from birth, giving them their name, and liver spots are associated with ageing. Birthmarks can be present anywhere on the body, while liver spots usually appear on the hands, arms, face, and neck.

Birthmarks appear as brown spots on the skin and can occur alone or in groups. Also, these spots can vary greatly in shape, size, and shade of coloring. Liver spots are also brown spots but appear larger than birthmarks and can increase in size or become darker over time.

Although these marks or spots are usually harmless the placement and blemish like appearance can cause some sufferers to seek treatment or removal. Before pursing this option, however, it is best to understand more about their causes.

Understanding the Causes

Birthmarks and liver spots are caused by the abnormal concentration of melanin in the skin. This abnormal concentration is not harmful and no known reason exists for the occurrence of this abnormality at birth.

However, the concentration of color that is seen with liver spots (also called age spots) can be caused by overexposure to the sun or free-radical damage. When exposure to the radiation produced by the sun (also called ultraviolet rays) damages skin cells melanin is overproduced and age spots can occur. Free-radical damage can be caused when the body is unable to fight the free radicals in the environment. This happens when a person does not consume enough antioxidants in their regular diet.

When Discoloration Shouldn't be Ignored

Although liver spots are always harmless, there are occasions when birthmarks can lead to melanoma or skin cancer. If you notice any change in a birthmark, including changes in size, shape, or pigmentation, you should seek the advice of a dermatologist or doctor. Indicators that your birthmark could lead to skin cancer include sudden itching, bleeding at the site, and the formation of darker, more irregular edges.

Treatment: What Are the Options?

If a birthmark or liver spot becomes too difficult to hide or the placement is less than desirable you can take steps to decrease its appearance or remove it altogether. Since birthmarks are usually formed deeper within the skin's layers, their removal is a little harder to complete. The most common way to remove a birthmark is through the use of a laser. Laser birthmark removal, which is performed by a plastic surgeon or dermatologist, involves the passing of light through the skin to destroy the concentration of melanin. This procedure involves little risk, only slight discomfort, and does not cause the whitening or scarring to the skin those older, less effective methods can.

For liver spot removal you have a few more options. Since the discoloration is located in the outermost layers of the skin, these spots can easily be treated with topical remedies. For lighter liver spots, or if you are only trying to treat one or two areas, you may want to consider a treatment you can do at home. The application of acidic fruit juice, like that found in lemons, has been shown to reduce the appearance of age spots. The same results can be seen with the application of raw slices of acidic fruit to the skin. To get the best results from these two treatments you must follow the procedure daily until the desired results are achieved.

Another at-home option is the application of an over-the-counter spot fading cream. These creams are sold in the beauty section of most stores and work by bleaching the skin until it lightens to a color that better matches the surrounding skin. For darker liver spots, or when you are trying to treat a large number of them, you may want the help of a dermatologist. Medical treatment for the removal of liver spots includes acid peels, the application of liquid nitrogen, and the application of a prescription topical antioxidant cream.

Acid peels and liquid nitrogen work by removing the top layer of skin where the majority of concentrated melanin is. These treatments work relatively quickly but the risk of returning discoloration is always possible. Antioxidant creams, however, take a little longer to work but the results seems to last longer.

No matter which treatment option you choose for the removal of birthmarks or liver spots, make sure that you are always on the look out for unwanted side effects. Symptoms like burning, extreme redness, itchiness, and irritation can mean that the product is too strong. If you notice these symptoms discontinue use immediately and see your doctor.

Living with birthmarks or age spots can be hard, especially if they appear on your face or hands. However, with the right treatment and the right attitude you do not have to let these discolorations hold you back.

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