Reddish-Brown Spots on the Skin

Reddish-brown spots on the skin can be due to a variety of conditions ranging from bruising and bleeding under the skin, to skin cancer and diseases such as psoriasis or eczema. According to the American Academy of Family Physicians, oftentimes reddish-brown spots are harmless changes that occur with age. They also can indicate more serious medical conditions that a dermatologist should inspect.


Natural changes to the skin occur with age. Age spots, also called liver spots, appear as reddish-brown spots on areas exposed to the sun and usually are harmless. Also called lentigines or liver spots, they usually appear on the backs of the hands, the back, feet or face. Fade creams may reduce the appearance of age spots. When they develop unusual shapes, the spots should be evaluated for potential malignancies.


A nerve infection that causes reddish-brown bumps on the body is called shingles and is common in the elderly, although it can affect people of any age. Early symptoms of shingles include fatigue, headaches or localized pain. The spots usually appear in a line across the chest, face, scalp, feet or hands. They usually stay on one side of the body. Shingles spots typically last for a couple weeks and are treated with anti-viral medications.


Bacterial and fungal infections are prevalent among people with diabetes and usually appear as reddish-brown spots around the eyelids, nails and hair follicles. The spots usually are itchy and also may appear in warm folds of the skin. According to the American Diabetes Organization, arc-shaped rashes that are reddish-brown and appear on the fingers or ears may be due to disseminated granuloma annulare and should be treated by a doctor.


Small reddish-brown spots called actinic keratosis are first felt by touch rather than noticed by the eye and may prove to be precancerous skin cells. According to the Skin Cancer Foundation, they typically appear on those areas of the skin that are often exposed to sun, such as the ears, face, hands and neck. They can grow to about an eighth or quarter-inch in size and be sensitive or itchy. The spots can develop into a number of different skin cancers and may be removed by your doctor or treated with topical creams to make them dissolve.


Psoriasis is an autoimmune disease that produces reddish-brown scales and lesions on the skin. Sometimes the spots are covered with a buildup of white, silvery dead skin cells. Various conditions trigger psoriasis outbreaks and can include medications, an injury or stress. People with psoriasis also are at risk for developing skin cancers, diabetes and inflammatory bowel disease. According to the National Psoriasis Foundation, a healthy diet, stress-relieving practices and regular exercise are the most effective treatments to prevent outbreaks.