Dark spots: causes, diagnosis and treatment.


Dark spots on the skin can appear at any time, but most of the time they appear in middle age. In most cases, they are the result of previous sun exposure or exposure to artificial ultraviolet (UV) light used in tanning salons.

The spots are also associated with certain skin conditions and can be a side effect of certain medications.

Other names for dark spots

  • Age spots
  • Hyperpigmentation
  • Liver spots
  • Solar lentigos

Get Drug Information / Nusha Ashjai

Symptoms of dark spots.

Dark spots are usually harmless, but there are times when they can be cancerous . If they bother you, you can clarify or remove them.

This article explains the symptoms, diagnosis, and treatment of dark spots.

These spots can be light to dark brown or black in color. They are flat and generally oval in shape.

Dark spots can appear anywhere. But most of the time they appear on the parts of the body that are most exposed to the sun. This includes:

  • Face
  • Back of the hand
  • Back
  • Hands
  • behind

Although the individual spots are usually small, some of them can clump together and form larger patches of dark skin.


Dark spots are the result of an excessive production or accumulation of melanin , the pigment in the skin that darkens it. They can also result from free radical damage .

Exposure to ultraviolet rays

The sun and tanning beds are the main cause of dark spots.

Hyperpigmentation usually appears in middle age. This is when the effects of sun exposure begin to appear on the skin. This is especially true if you didn't use sunscreen and other sunscreens at a younger age.

People with fair hair or skin who have suffered a lot of sunburns or severe burns are at particular risk.

However, other things can cause dark spots. These other causes can act alone or in combination with UV exposure.

Skin diseases

There are several different skin conditions and conditions that can cause dark spots to appear. However, this is not the same as dark age spots. They include:

  • Post- inflammatory hyperpigmentation – skin discoloration after a scratch, rash, or acne.
  • Melasma : also known as a maternity mask or chloasma .
  • Black line: a dark vertical line that appears along the middle of the abdomen during pregnancy.
  • Rail Melanosis – A form of contact dermatitis believed to be caused by exposure to the sun.
  • Poikiloderma civatte : A benign (non-cancerous) condition in which parts of the neck turn reddish-brown.
  • Follicular erythromelanosis : reddish-brown pigmentation of the face and neck.


Some medications can cause dark spots by making your skin more sensitive to sun exposure (also known as light sensitivity ). They include:

  • Estrogens like Vagifem, Climara, and Estrace.
  • Tetracyclines, broad-spectrum antibiotics such as adoxa ( doxycycline ), declomycin (demeclocycline), and minocin (minocycline)
  • Amiodarone , used to treat irregular heartbeat (brand names include Cordarone and Patseron)
  • Phenytoin , an anticonvulsant (brand names include Dilantin and Fenitek)
  • Phenothiazines used to treat mental and emotional disorders (brand names include Compra and Thorazine)
  • Sulfonamides used to treat infections (brand names include Bactrim and Septra)

Other reasons

Dark spots can also be seen in these conditions:


Dark spots usually appear in middle age. They are often caused by sun exposure, but they can also be caused by other causes.

Skin conditions, pregnancy, and certain medications or medical conditions can cause dark spots to appear.

People with fair skin, blonde hair, and severe or multiple sunburns are at higher risk of developing dark spots.


Your healthcare professional or dermatologist can usually diagnose dark spots on a physical exam. If the stain does not look suspicious, a biopsy or further testing is not necessary.

Watch out

Dark spots are harmless and have the same texture as the rest of the skin. In most cases, they do not pose a health hazard. This way, you don't need to get rid of them, although many people do it for cosmetic reasons.

Dark spots can disappear or be completely removed with prescription drugs, medical treatments, or home treatments.

Local treatments

Prescription bleaching creams gradually reduce the appearance of dark spots. This usually takes several months.

Hydroquinone is the active ingredient in prescription skin lightening creams. It works by decreasing the production of melanin. However, long-term use carries some risks, so you should only use it short-term.

Several studies have shown that hydroquinone can cause cancer in higher concentrations. For this reason, the FDA has limited the hydroquinone concentration to 3-4% in prescription products and 2% in over-the-counter products.

Several other over-the-counter medications treat age spots. They can reduce the appearance of blemishes, but they cannot eliminate them. Look for creams that contain retinoids, alpha hydroxy acid, glycolic acid, deoxyarbutin, or kojic acid.

Side effects, including redness, swelling, and irritation of the skin, can occur with any topical medication. Skin lightening products contain abrasive ingredients that also make the skin extremely sensitive to UV radiation. Therefore, it is important to constantly use SPF sunscreen throughout the treatment.

Cosmetic procedures

Healthcare professionals and estheticians can use medical treatments to treat dark spots anywhere on the body. They are often used in conjunction with topical treatments. However, some of them may not be suitable for people with sensitive skin. The options include:

  • Laser treatment : uses focused light energy to remove skin layer by layer, burning dark spots. Risks include bruising, swelling, redness, tightness, scarring, infection, and changes in skin texture.
  • Chemical peels : contain salicylic acid and / or glycolic acid , which remove the top layer of the skin. As a result, the skin underneath will become healthier and more even-toned. However, there may be a risk of skin irritation.
  • Microdermabrasion : There are two types of microdermabrasion. Both physically remove cells from the skin's surface. Using glass microdermabrasion, the machine sprays tiny crystals through a stick, which rubs against the skin and scrapes off the cells. For diamond-tip microdermabrasion, the abrasive end of a bar is used instead. After that, the skin may turn pink for a while, but these methods are not considered important.
  • Cryosurgery :   Cryosurgery removes age spots by freezing them with a liquid nitrogen solution. This causes the dark skin to peel off the body. Risks include permanent whitening of the treated areas.


Dark spots are not usually serious. Most of the time, they do not require treatment. However, some people choose to remove them for cosmetic reasons.

Skin lightening creams, laser treatments, chemical peels, microdermabrasion, and cryosurgery are all options for removing dark spots.


With age, dark spots can be unavoidable. However, there are several ways to prevent dark or dull spots from reappearing. This includes:

  • Wear SPF – Try applying sunscreen every two hours. Reapply more often if you've been swimming or sweating a lot.
  • Cover Up : When outside, wear a hat, long sleeves, and pants. SPF fabrics can offer additional protection.
  • Avoid Maximum Sunlight – Maximum UV exposure usually occurs between 10:00 a.m. M. And 2:00 p.m. M.


Dark spots usually appear with age. They are often the result of previous sun exposure. But they can also be associated with certain skin conditions, medications, and certain medical conditions.

Often times, your healthcare professional or dermatologist can diagnose dark spots just by looking at them. But in some cases, a skin biopsy may be done to make sure.

Dark spots are usually harmless. However, some people choose to remove them for cosmetic reasons. Treatment options include skin lightening creams and beauty treatments.

You may not be able to completely prevent dark spots. But you can reduce your risk by wearing sunscreen by staying covered when out in the sun and not in the sun during peak hours.

Get the word of drug information

Visit your dermatologist annually for a skin check, even if you think any oddity in your skin is harmless. While a dark spot is probably not a cause for concern, keep in mind that skin discoloration can sometimes be a sign of cancer. This is especially true when combined with other changes like bleeding, itching, and redness.

In rare cases, what may look like a sun spot, such as lentigo solaris, may actually be a type of melanoma called lentigo maligna . If your healthcare provider sees a potentially dangerous dark spot, he or she may perform a biopsy to look for something more serious, such as skin cancer.

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