Hyperpigmentation occurs because of excess production of melanin. Melanin is a pigment that gives the skin its color and is produced by the skin cells called melanocytes. Some of the causes of hyperpigmentation include:
- Excess sun exposure
- Certain chemotherapy drugs
- Certain medical conditions such as systemic lupus erythematosus (SLE)
- Chemical or physical injury
- Inflammatory diseases
- Tobacco smoking
- Hormonal causes
- Certain ethnic races
- Repeated contact with cosmetic products
- Prolonged exposure to a variety of topical products
- Contact with plants containing furocoumarins
- Constant scratching or other minor trauma to the skin
- Exposures to moderate heat or infrared radiations
Some of the medical conditions causing hyperpigmentation include:
- Addison’s disease (a disorder of the adrenal glands where they do not produce enough steroid hormones)
- Diabetic dermopathy (pigmentation spots occurring in the thigh areas of people with diabetes)
- Acanthosis nigricans (a skin condition causing dark discoloration in the body folds and creases)
- Hereditary hemochromatosis (a genetic disorder of iron overload)
- Post-chikungunya fever pigmentation
- Lichen planus pigmentosus (a chronic inflammatory skin condition affecting the skin)
- Actinic lichen planus (an inflammatory disorder of the skin)
What is hyperpigmentation?
Hyperpigmentation is the darkening of the skin more than the surrounding areas. It can
- occur in small patches.
- cover large areas.
- affect the entire body.
Although hyperpigmentation doesn’t cause any harm, it may be a symptom of another medical condition.
There are several types of hyperpigmentation. The most common ones include:
- Melasma: It typically affects the sun-exposed areas of the face or stomach. It is common in people with darker complexion who live in places with intense ultraviolet (UV) radiation exposure.
- Sunspot: Sunspots or solar lentigines are tan to dark brown spots that occur on sun-exposed areas such as the face, hands, forearms, upper chest, and upper back. It usually occurs due to chronic sun exposure.
- Post-inflammatory hyperpigmentation: It occurs due to an injury or inflammation to the skin. Acne is the most common cause of this type.
How is hyperpigmentation treated?
The general approach to hyperpigmentation treatment involves:
- Sun protection: People with pigmentation should prevent sun exposure between 11:00 a.m. and 4:00 p.m. Some of the common ways to combat sun exposure include:
- Cosmetic camouflage (hiding the pigmented areas using cosmetics)
- Chemical peels
- Topical therapies
- Laser therapy