PIGMENTATION

Hyperpigmentation is a common, usually harmless condition in which patches of skin become darker in color than the normal surrounding skin.

This darkening occurs when an excess of melanin, the brown pigment that produces normal skin color, form deposits in the skin. Hyperpigmentation can affect the skin color of people of any race.

Causes

A common cause of hyperpigmentation is an excess production of melanin. Melanin is a pigment that gives skin its color. It’s produced by skin cells called melanocytes. Several different conditions or factors can alter the production of melanin in your body.

Certain medications can cause hyperpigmentation. Also, some chemotherapy drugs can cause hyperpigmentation as a side effect. Pregnancy changes hormone levels and can affect melanin production in some women.

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A rare endocrine disease called Addison’s disease can produce hyperpigmentation that’s most obvious in areas of sun exposure, such as the face, neck, and hands, and areas exposure to friction, such as elbows and knees.

The hyperpigmentation is a direct result of an increased level of a hormone in your body that results in increased melanin synthesis.
Excessive sun exposure can also cause an increase in melanin.

Types

  • Age or "liver" spots are a common form of hyperpigmentation. They occur due to sun damage, and are referred to by doctors as solar lentigines. These small, darkened patches are usually found on the hands and face or other areas frequently exposed to the sun.
  • Melasma or chloasma spots are similar in appearance to age spots but are larger areas of darkened skin that appear most often as a result of hormonal changes. Pregnancy, for example, can trigger overproduction of melanin that causes the "mask of pregnancy" on the face and darkened skin on the abdomen and other areas. Women who take birth control pills may also develop hyperpigmentation because their bodies undergo similar kind of hormonal changes that occur during pregnancy. If one is really bothered by the pigment, the birth control pills should be stopped.

Changes in skin color can result from outside causes.
For example, skin diseases such as acne may leave dark spots after the condition clears.

Other causes of dark spots are injuries to the skin, including some surgeries.

Freckles are small brown spots that can appear anywhere on the body, but are most common on the face and arms. Freckles are an inherited characteristic.Freckles, age spots, and other darkened skin patches can become darker or more pronounced when skin is exposed to the sun.

Preventive measures

It’s not always possible to prevent hyperpigmentation. However, you can protect yourself by:

  • Using sunscreen with an SPF of at least 30
  • Keep your skin protected from the sun by wearing sunscreen every day.
  • Wearing hats or clothing that block sunlight
  • Avoiding the sun during the time of the day when it’s strongest, which is typically 10 a.m. to 4 p.m.

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