The color of your skin is determined by melanin, a pigment that is made by melanocytes (special cells in your skin). The type and amount of melanin you have will determine your skin color. The following article will discuss melanin and skin pigment disorders.
What is the role of melanin?
Melanin provides color to your hair, iris and skin. The level of melanin you have depends on your race and how much you are exposed to the sun. Hormonal changes also affect the production of melanin.
Skin Pigmentation Disorders
• Albinism: This is a rare and inherited disorder characterized by partial or total lack of melanin in your skin compared to your parents or siblings. Albinos have pale skin, pink eyes and white hair. Albinism has no cure. However, albinos are advised to stay away from the sun.
• Melasma: Symmetric dark brown patches on your face. This is known as the mask of pregnancy for patients who are expectant. Sun exposure, contraceptive pills and hormones are the main causes of melasma. The best treatment for melasma is to avoid too much exposure to the sun and wear sun screen. Other treatments include laser treatment, chemical peels and prescription creams to make the patches lighter.
• Pigment Loss: Sometimes after a person has had ulcers, a burn, blister or skin infection, the skin is unable to replace the pigment in the affected area. Cosmetics can be used to disguise the blemish.
• Vitiligo: These are smooth, white patches that appear on the skin. Vitiligo occurs when your skin loses the cells responsible for your pigment. These patches are sensitive to sunlight. Vitiligo has no cure. Skin pigmentation treatment nowadays includes light sensitive drugs, long lasting dyes, corticosteroid creams, depigmentation and ultra violet light therapy.
• Hyper Pigmentation: Some skin conditions lead to localized or generalized hyper pigmentation. Hyper pigmentation increases the color of your skin. Generalized hyperpigmentation arises when the circulating melanocyte has a bronze hue. Localized hyperpigmentation is characterized by dark spots on face.
Main Causes of Pigmentation Disorders
Sometimes your body produces too much or too little melanin resulting in pigmentation disorders. These disorders make your skin either appear darker or lighter or may cause you to have discolored or blotchy skin. The main cause of pigmentation disorders are internal factors like pregnancy, hormones and endothelial cells. External factors like burning, exposure to certain chemicals and ultraviolet radiation. Dietary imbalances and stress may also lead to skin pigmentation disorders.
Since melanin is brought about by several oxidative reactions involving an amino acid called tyrosine. Inhibiting the action of tyrosinase can change or stop the production of melanin. Most depigmenting treatments target tyrosinase. However most of these treatments have side effects such as ochronosis (blue-back discoloration of skin tissues) and cancer. This is the reason most people opt for home remedies for treating common pigmentation conditions.
How are Skin Pigmentation Disorders Diagnosed?
Doctors mainly diagnose these disorders by examining the patient’s medical history and through a physical examination. For conditions such as vitiligo, a diagnosis is conducted through a visual examination. For skin cancer, a biopsy is done to study how the skin looks like through a microscope. Other devices used for diagnosing skin pigmentation disorders include wood’s lamp and a black light test.