The levels of pigment (melanin) in the skin determine the tone and colour of the skin. When these levels alter, the colour appearance of the skin alters. There are different factors that can trigger an increase or decrease of the levels of pigment in the skin, resulting in discolouration.
What is Pigmentation?
Pigmentation refers to the shading of a person’s skin. The hyper condition causes a person’s skin to become darker and the hypo condition causes a person’s skin to lighten. There are a variety of causes of skin discolorations, ranging from certain illnesses to excessive sun exposure, to specific prescriptions.
Hyperpigmentation results from an overproduction of melanin, a brown pigment in the skin that protects the epidermis from burning during sun exposure. Over stimulation of melanin will darken the skin to brown in patches. This can sometimes be caused by the body’s inflammation, such as autoimmune diseases or injury, or due to excessive trauma to the skin. Brown patches can also be a result of over stimulation of the epidermis due to exposure to ultra violet (UV) light from the sun’s rays leading to sun damage.
There are various forms of hyperpigmentation. It is a common condition and does not prove to be detrimental to an individual’s health. Melasma is a common type and presents as dark brown to black symmetrical patches usually found on the cheeks, jawline, temples and foreheads. This is due to the increased function of melanocytes, which are responsible for producing pigment. Melasma can occur in pregnant women or those women on birth control pills or experience hormonal imbalances, or triggered by sun exposure. It is more prevalent in ethnic skin, however, it can affect anyone despite race or age.
Hypopigmentation is the lack or loss of skin colour and is known as depigmentation. These are most often permanent but in some cases can be effectively treated. The causes of hypopigmentation can be due to skin injury, damage or an illness.
Vitiligo is a common hypopigmentation skin condition affecting around 1% of the population. It can affect people of either gender and of any age. While this skin condition can affect men and women who are of any race, it is more noticeable in those who have dark skin. Vitiligo can cause extreme distress to sufferers because of its unusual appearance.
The main symptom of Vitiligo is the depigmentation, or white patches, on the skin but it can also lead to loss or change in the colour of the retina, greying of hair on scalp and also the loss of colour in the tissues that line the mouth.
Until recently, people suffering from vitiligo have had virtually no access to successful treatment for their condition except for cosmetic camouflage.
While pigmentation is a stubborn problem that certainly won't disappear overnight and takes persistence and patience to treat, we can prescribe a combination of treatments. An initial consultation with one of our leading dermatologists at Miravue Skin Clinic will allow you to find out which would be the recommended course of action.