Dark spots, also known as age spots or hyperpigmentation, are very common and almost always harmless. They are caused by an overproduction of melanin or skin pigment. The likelihood of getting dark spots tends to increase with age, particularly in those who have spent a good amount of time in the sun over the years. Dark spots can appear almost overnight and, since they are associated with aging, most people look for ways to erase or minimize their appearance.
While UV light exposure, both from the sun and from artificial light in tanning beds, is a major factor in most cases of dark spots, it's far from the only cause. Other causes include pregnancy, aging, some diseases like melasma and liver disease, some medications like estrogen and tetracyclines, and the presence of pituitary tumors.
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