Diagnosing age spots may include:
- Visual inspection. Your doctor can usually diagnose age spots by visually inspecting your skin.
- Skin biopsy. If there's any doubt whether something is an age spot or not, your doctor may do other tests, such as a skin biopsy. During a skin biopsy, your doctor takes a small sample of your skin (biopsy) for microscopic analysis. A skin biopsy is usually done in a doctor's office, using a local anesthetic.
Other conditions that can look similar to age spots and that your doctor may need to rule out include the following:
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- Moles. Although they often appear as small, dark brown spots, moles (nevi) vary in color and size. They can be raised or flat and can develop almost anywhere on your body.
- Seborrheic keratoses. These tan, brown or black growths have a wart-like or waxy, pasted-on appearance.
- Lentigo maligna. A type of skin cancer known as lentigo maligna melanoma can develop in areas of long-term sun exposure. Lentigo maligna starts as tan, brown or black lesions that slowly darken and enlarge. They tend to have an irregular border and uneven coloring, and they may be slightly raised.
- Schaffer JV, et al. Benign pigmented skin lesions other than melanocytic nevi (moles). http://www.uptodate.com/home. Accessed Nov. 22, 2013.
- Goldstein BG, et al. Overview of benign lesions of the skin. http://www.uptodate.com/home. Accessed Nov. 22, 2013.
- Ortonne JP, et al. Treatment of solar lentigines. Journal of the American Academy of Dermatology. 2006;54:S262.
- Melanoma (malignant melanoma). The Merck Manuals: The Merck Manual for Health Care Professionals. http://www.merckmanuals.com/professional/dermatologic_disorders/cancers_of_the_skin/melanoma.html#v968069. Accessed Nov. 24, 2013.
- Metelitsa A, et al. Laser and light therapy for cutaneous hyperpigmentation. http://www.uptodate.com/home. Accessed Nov. 22, 2013.
- Is microdermabrasion the right choice for you? American Academy of Dermatology. http://www.aad.org/dermatology-a-to-z/diseases-and-treatments/m---p/microdermabrasion/is-it-right-for-you#allpages. Accessed Nov. 24, 2013.
- Draelos ZD. Skin lightening preparations and the hydroquinone controversy. Dermatologic Therapy. 2007;20:308.
- Sunscreen FAQs. American Academy of Dermatology. http://www.aad.org/media/background/factsheets/fact_sunscreen.htm. Accessed Nov. 14, 2013.
- Sun protective clothing. American Melanoma Foundation. http://www.melanomafoundation.org/prevention/clothing.htm. Accessed Nov. 14, 2013.