Pigmentation Disorders

What is Pigmentation Disorder?

Pigmentation means coloring. Skin pigmentation disorders affect the color of your skin. Your skin gets its color from a pigment called melanin. Special cells in the skin make melanin. When these cells become damaged or unhealthy, it affects melanin production. Some pigmentation disorders affect just patches of skin. Others affect your entire body.

If your body makes too much melanin, your skin gets darker. Pregnancy, Addison’s disease, and sun exposure all can make your skin darker. If your body makes too little melanin, your skin gets lighter. Vitiligo is a condition that causes patches of light skin. Albinism is a genetic condition affecting a person’s skin. A person with albinism may have no color, lighter than normal skin color, or patchy missing skin color. Infections, blisters and burns can also cause lighter skin.

Pigmentary disorders is a general term which includes hyperpigmentary disorders (darkening of the skin) and hypopigmentary disorders (decrease in the normal skin color). The most common disorders being melasma (hyperpigmentary) and vitiligo (hypopigmentary).

What is melasma?

It can occur after exposure to the sun or hormonal changes (pregnancy, oral contraception, etc.), causing an increase of melanin in the skin (the substance that gives skin its color). It is considered a chronic disease that can sometimes appear before pregnancy, disappear a few months after giving birth, reappear in subsequent pregnancies or last for several years. Pigmentation usually affects the face and mainly the cheeks, forehead and upper lips.

How to treat melasma:

The disease is generally treated with a combination of active ingredients for topical application; the most efficient being a triple combination drug, which must be used every day, while applying a broad spectrum sunscreen several times a day. It can also be treated well with lasers and chemical peels.

What is vitiligo?

Vitiligo is an acquired skin disease characterized by circumscribed depigmented lesions. It may appear anytime from shortly after birth to old age and affects 1.3% of the population. The onset can be precipitated by specific life events (physical injury, sunburn, emotional injury, illness, pregnancy). Both sexes are affected equally. Lesions are uniformly milky-white, round, oval or linear in shape, vary in size and appear anywhere on the body, but mainly in areas of repeated trauma, pressure or friction (elbows, knees, fingers and toes). Genetic, immunologic, environmental and stress factors are thought to be involved.

How to treat vitiligo

Vitiligo is a difficult disease to treat. When it is of limited extent, topical treatments can be used; but when a large surface of the body is affected, ultraviolet light (UV) therapy is recommended, alone or in combination with topical treatments.