Liver spots, which are small patches of discolored skin, appear as a result of exposure to ultraviolet light, explains the Mayo Clinic. They have nothing to do with the liver or liver function, says MedlinePlus. Also called age spots, liver spots are common in people over 40.
Liver spots appear most frequently on parts of the body that have had the most exposure to sunlight, such as the back of the hands, face, forearms and shoulders. They form when a pigment called melanin is produced in high concentrations or clumps in the upper layer of skin, or epidermis. Ultraviolet light encourages the production of melanin, creating a tan to help protect deeper levels of the skin. People who have light skin or who have a history of overexposure to sunlight are most likely to develop liver spots, as well as those who've used tanning beds or sun lamps.
Liver spots are painless. They can be lightened with bleaching cream or lotion containing hydroquinone, although MedlinePlus warns that this substance can cause blisters or skin reactions in some people. Normally, liver spots appear light brown or black in color and are flat. A doctor should be consulted if there are changes in appearance or shape. Liver spots may be prevented by wearing protective clothing, applying sunscreen and limiting time in the sunlight, especially during midday.