Dark Splotches on Skin
Dark splotches on the skin, or hyperpigmentation, is a condition that, according to the American Osteopathic College of Dermatology, is usually harmless. This condition occurs when patches of skin become darker in color than the surrounding skin due to excess melanin, or skin pigment, forming deposits in the skin. This can occur for a variety of reasons, and can affect the skin of persons of all races.
Age spots, according to MayoClinic.com, are also known as liver spots or solar lentigines, and are flat spots of brown, gray or black skin discoloration. They vary in size and usually appear in areas most often exposed to the sun, such as the face, hands, shoulders and arms. According to Derma Network, these spots are associated with cumulative sun exposure, as ultraviolet rays activate the pigment-producing cells in the skin to produce more melanin. This type of dark splotches on the skin are most common in people over age 40, but can occur in younger people. While age spots can be unsightly, they pose no threat to health and do not require treatment.
According to the American Academy of Dermatology, melasma is a common skin condition characterized by brown or gray-brown patches that most commonly appear on the face. These are most likely to form on the cheeks, forehead, chin and upper lip, but can also appear on the neck and forearms. Melasma most often affects women, according to the American Academy of Dermatology, with only 10 percent of cases occurring in men, and its causes are unknown. Melasma is more likely to occur in people with a family history of the condition and in those with darker skin tones.
Chloasma, often called mask of pregnancy, is most often triggered by hormonal changes, according to the American Osteopathic College of Dermatology. These areas of hyperpigmentation are generally larger than age spots, and often appear on the face or abdomen during pregnancy, the hormonal changes triggering an overproduction of melanin. Chloasma spots can develop in women who take oral contraceptives as well, as these medications cause hormone changes similar to those that occur in pregnancy.
Skin injuries can cause dark splotches on the skin. This condition is called postinflammatory hyperpigmentation, and according to DermNet NZ, is skin discoloration left on the skin after an underlying skin disease or injury has healed. Causes can include skin infections, rashes, acne, dermatitis, or direct trauma like surgery, burns, cuts or blisters. According to DermNet NZ, inflammatory responses in the epidermal skin layer to disease or trauma leads to the release of body chemicals that can alter the activity of immune cells and melanocytes, the cells that produce pigment, causing an overproduction of melanin in the injured area.
While dark blotches on the skin can be unsightly and embarrassing for those who develop them, hyperpigmentation is usually a harmless condition. Many types of dark spots, such as postinflammatory hyperpigmentation, melasma and chloasma often fade on their own over time. However, for those who would like to speed up the process, a number of treatments can reduce the appearance of dark blotches on the skin. Over-the-counter skin lightening creams can help in some cases, or for more stubborn spots, consult a dermatologist for more aggressive treatment options.
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