Hyperpigmentation

Hyperpigmentation, or dark areas of the skin, is due to an increase in the pigment of the skin usually seen after either sun exposure or inflammatory skin conditions. It can also be the result of a chemical peel. There are certainly hereditary issues that can be involved as well, particularly in the Asian population. A significant amount of sun exposure or an insufficient amount of cortisone-like hormones can also cause this problem. Many drugs can also cause hyperpigmentation.

Depending upon the source of hyperpigmentation, increased sun spots or age spots can be treated with topical bleaching agents. Agents such as hydroquinones and kojic acid are effective at reducing hyperpigmentation. Many such products can be found at Dr. Barry Cohen's TotalSkinCare. These products are best used with agents which increase the turnover of the skin, such as Kinerase or alpha hydroxy acids. What causes it? Some diseases (like Addison's disease) can cause a "suntan" without exposure to the sun. Other fungal infections (like tinea versicolor) can cause patches of paler or darker skin to develop on the trunk. Seborrheic keratosis causes round, oval patches of dark skin to develop after middle age. If you experience hyperpigmentation and do not know the cause, it is best to have it diagnosed by your doctor.

More common causes of hyperpigmentation are melasma, chloasma and post-inflammatory hyperpigmentation. Melasma Melasma is a fairly common hyperpigmentation disorder that causes dark, blotchy patches on the face. The discoloration often appears tan or brown but sometimes appears much darker or dark red. Patches tend to darken as they are exposed to the sun and will often turn brown in the summer and fade in winter.

Although men are known to suffer from melasma, the condition usually affects women. It often appears in women taking birth control pills or hormone replacement therapy. When it appears in pregnant women, it is called "the mask of pregnancy," or chloasma. This type of melasma usually disappears after a baby is born — but not always. Women who have melasma should wait several months after delivery before contemplating a cosmetic procedure to see if their spots spontaneously fade.

Women taking birth control pills who experience melasma are instructed to stop taking them or to switch brands. Research indicates that birth control pills containing low amounts of estrogen, or progestin only, have less likelihood of inducing melasma. Changing pills, however, will usually have no effect on the hyperpigmentation you already have. Lentigines Lentigines are flat, brown discolorations of the skin that frequently appear on the back of the hands, neck and face of people over the age of 40. Also known as age spots or liver spots, these harmless discolorations have nothing to do with how old you are or how well your liver functions.

Lentigines are the result of years of sun exposure. Much deeper than a tan, the hyperpigmentation of lentigines represent an increased number of damaged melanocytes which contain melanin. This increased melanin will darken after repeated exposure to ultraviolet rays. Post-Inflammatory Hyperpigmentation

Post-inflammatory hyperpigmentation results from any inflammatory trauma to the skin. Acne — particularly cysts or nodules — often leaves dark discoloration after a blemish heals. Sometimes, the spot can last for six months or more. Poorly administered chemical peels or botched laser surgery can leave behind hyperpigmentation. Rashes like psoriasis and eczema often darken the skin, as well. Even seemingly innocuous things like leg waxing and electrolysis can leave you with a reminder that hair today is not necessarily gone tomorrow....

he degree of hyperpigmentation varies depending on which part of the body it appears. Discoloration on the torso and lower body tends to be much darker than discoloration appearing on the face. The darker your skin, the more prone you are to this type of hyperpigmentation.

Normal skin contains cells called melanocytes that produce the skin-coloring pigment known as melanin. In several conditions, the melanocytes are either abnormal or abnormally distributed. Sometimes the skin contains fewer or less active melanocytes than usual. In these situations the result is a pale area (hypopigmentation) that does not tan. In cases of hyperpigmentation, the melanocytes are overactive. The result is dark patches of skin.

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