Hyperpigmentation is the darkening of the skin that is caused by excessive amounts of melanin. Melanin is created by specialized cells that are found all over the body. Because of this, hyperpigmentation can show up anywhere.
The shape and size of a patch of skin that is darkened can be used to determine what the cause is, and non-symmetrical or changing shapes are often caused by underlying conditions.
The ultimate cause of hyperpigmentation is an undesired increase in melanin, but because there are so many different things that can increase melanin it can be difficult to immediately pin down what the cause is.
Due to the genetic component it is the body’s choice of how much melanin to produce. Internal and unavoidable conditions such as aging are melanin production factors that affect skin coloration. External factors such as over exposure to sun and certain chemicals found in everyday products can also have an impact on melanin production.
Although it may seem clear what has caused a sudden or gradual change in skin color, the vast amount of things that can affect melanocytes make it tricky to pin down the cause in a given situation.
While harmless itself past aesthetic concerns, there are several potentially dangerous conditions that feature hyperpigmentation as a symptom. The most obvious is skin cancer. A simple dark spot on the skin, though harmless it may seem, can be a serious condition that needs to be treated by doctor or skin specialist.
What Causes Hyperpigmentation on the Skin
The color of our skin is produced by pigment which acts to regulate the amount of ultraviolet radiation our bodies absorb from the sun. Pigment is produced by the amino acid melanin, which is made by cells in the lowest level of the epidermis called melanocytes.
Hyperpigmentation occurs when too much melanin is present, resulting in an over production of pigment and darkening of the skin. There is a host of conditions that can cause hyperpigmentation, such as Addison’s disease, which elevates the hormones responsible for melanin production, melasma often caused in pregnant women by hormonal changes and imbalances, and smoker’s melanosis, darker patches of skin inside the mouth that are caused by the chemicals found in cigarettes.
Although the causes are all different, they all bring about hyperpigmentation by the same means of causing a reaction in melanocytes that increases the amount of melanin they produce. In many cases involving hyperpigmentation due to disorders like these, the change in color is usually an secondary symptom, meaning that there is a possibility that other things are going on.
What is Post Inflammatory Hyperpigmentation
Another common cause of skin discoloration is in cellular damage. In the aftermath of some type of trauma, such as burns, severe allergic reactions, bruising, scrapes and cuts, the cells in the area remain damaged even after the surface healing has completed.
Because the amount of melanin a cell produces is a genetic setting, when damage occurs to a cell sometime the DNA in control of melanin is damaged. This alteration of DNA and lead to a production of too much melanin which causes darker skin to form. This condition is known as Post Inflammatory Hyperpigmentation.
This is commonly seen around severe injuries that leave scars or other blemishes on the skin after they have healed. It is also possible to see this in severe cases of acne and the resulting scarring.
Damage to cells is one reason for increased melanin production in post inflammation hyperpigmentation, but there is also a chance of what you might call “pigmentary incontinence”. In other words, the cells are unable to hold the melanin they need within themselves and allowing it to leak into the macrophages of neighboring cells.
In this instance the edges of the dark patch often present small outreaching tendrils, such as food coloring on a coffee filter. Details such as this can be used to diagnose the condition more clearly and point pigment treatment in the right direction.
Simple Hyperpigmentation Treatment Options
Although hyperpigmentation can be unsettling and frustrating to suddenly have to deal with, it is important to remember that it is by and large harmless. There are several ways to get lighter skin, such as topical creams, laser treatments and microdermabrasion.
In the case of topical skin lightening creams, specialized compounds are formulated to block the production of melanin in the cells and therefore reduce pigmentation. This method is most effective for cells that are close to the surface of the skin.
When the discoloration is deeper the use of a specialized laser can be utilized. Finely tuned and tightly controlled ultraviolet light is fired at the cells, essentially altering their genetic structure to lighten their pigment.
In the case of microdermabrasion an instrument is used to remove very thin layers of skin until the desired color is reached without causing scars or damaging the skin in other ways.
This technique avoids the potential dangers of chemicals or lasers and can also be used to remove unwanted moles or freckles, but is generally only effective on small areas.
There is Hope for Your Skin Discoloration
Now that you have a general understanding of the causes of hyperpigmentation, with the many skin pigmentation treatments available, you are more than likely to find an effective treatment option. Find out more about removing or at least diminishing the undesired change in color any where on you body.
It is true, those who suffer from a mild form of hyperpigmentation do not need to feel that there is nothing that can be done to solve their problem. There are solutions and we have the answers here at Skin Discoloration Solutions.