Melanin is responsible for imparting color to the skin, hair and iris of the eyes. Levels of melanin depend on race and amount of sunlight exposure. Melanin production increases with exposure to the skin so as to protect the skin against harmful ultraviolet rays. Skin pigmentation disorders occur as a result of the body producing either too much or too little melanin. Skin pigmentation creates a darker or lighter skin tone that may be blotchy and uneven. Sun damage is probably the leading cause of skin pigmentation problems. Other factors include drug reactions, hormonal changes, genetic factors and medications.
Hormonal therapy, childbirth or birth control pills can cause skin pigmentation changes. Many people suffer from skin pigmentation problems as a result of locally increased skin pigment production. They appear as age spots, moles, liver spots or hyper pigmentation after local skin damage. Freckles are another variation in pigmentation of the skin. They are caused but by uneven release of the pigment.
Hypopigmentation or loss of skin pigmentation is a condition where the body does not produce sufficient melanin. Sometimes after an ulcer, blister, burn, or infection heals, the skin loses some of its pigment in that area. Albino is one who suffers total hypopigmentation at birth.
Vitiligo: Vitiligo is another form of hypo pigmentation caused by the loss of pigment-producing cells in the skin (melanocytes). These white patches are very sensitive to the sun. This skin pigmentation disorder affects nearly 2% of the population and is more evident in those with darker skin. Some scientists believe vitiligo may be caused by an autoimmune disorder. It is also linked to hyperthyroidism and Addison's Disease that affects the adrenal glands.
Hyper Pigmentation is a condition where the body produces too much melanin thereby causing it to become darker than usual. Hyper pigmentation can occur due to excessive sun bathing or drug reactions. Many a time wounds and scars leave a darker patch of skin. Birthmarks, moles, and aging spots are also indications of hyper pigmentation. It is important to keep on the alert for any change in size, color or texture for indications of skin cancer.
Lichen Simplex Chronicus: This skin pigmentation disorder is characterized by dark patches of skin accompanied with severe itching. This can lead to permanent scarring and infection if untreated.
Melasma: This hyper pigmentation condition is a fallout of pregnancy hormones. A dark mask appears over the cheeks, bridge of the nose and the neck. This skin pigmentation condition is also known as chloasma and can be treated with prescription creams and over-the-counter products.
Birthmarks: This type of skin pigmentation appears at birth or in the few weeks following birth. These birthmarks do not generally pose any health risks.
Port-wine Stains: These skin pigmentation spots are caused by abnormal development of capillaries and appear as a red or purple mark on the body.
Hyperpigmentation is a condition where parts of the skin turn darker in color than surrounding areas. These dark patches are generally seen on the face, hands, shoulders, or the neck area of an individual. These spots are usually referred to as liver spots, solar lentigines, pregnancy mask or freckles. Some kinds of hyperpigmentation spots could turn cancerous if not treated appropriately. A dermatologist could help distinguish hyper pigmentation from regular tanning or sunburn and provide effective treatment.
Hyper pigmentation causes
Melanocytes present in the skin's epidermis produce melanin which is the pigment responsible for the color of skin, eye and hair of an individual. Hormonal, physical changes or environmental factors trigger melanocytes to produce excessive melanin. This imbalance in production also affects the melanocyte's ability to distribute melanin evenly across the skin's epidermis. Therefore the excess melanin usually forms clusters and the skin tends to appear darker in the melanin concentrated areas, leading to uneven skin tone and darker areas.
Hormonal changes occurring during pregnancy and menopause can trigger excess melanin production. Diseases like hypothyroidism and Addison's disease can set off melanocyte stimulating hormones. Excessive sun exposure can play havoc on melanin production. Some medications such as those for insomnia, infertility, hypertension and oral contraceptives can cause hyperpigmentation.
Creams containing Hydroquinone, alpha Hydroxyl acid, licorice, green tea extracts or Retinol are prescribed for topical application. Chemical peels and skin dermabrasion are done to improve the skin tone. Laser procedures can work on melanin pigments.
Albino refers to a person suffering Albinism, which indicates complete or partial lack of pigment in the skin and hair. It is caused by defecive enzyme that produces melanin. Consequently it might make the persons more susceptible to sunburn and skin cancer. An albino is also likely to suffer vision problems such as astigmatism and photophobia.
Bibliography / Reference
Collection of Pages - Last revised Date: October 16, 2018