Dark Spots in Hyperpigmentation
Hyperpigmentation is a generally harmless condition of the skin identified by dark spots and patches. It occurs when factors such as sun exposure, heredity, hormones and injury induce the skin's pigment producing cells to create an abnormal quantity of melanin. This excess pigment then clumps together, forming dark deposits in the skin, explains the American Osteopathic College of Dermatology.
Sun Damage and Aging
Age spots, or solar lentigines, tend to appear on the face, hands and other parts of the body that get frequent sun exposure. They vary in size and may appear grayish, black or brown. According to MayoClinic.com, the development of age spots is gradual and is caused by sun damage and aging. The condition is usually associated with men and women over the age of 40, although younger people may develop it as well.
Freckles are an inherited characteristic, according to the American Osteopathic College of Dermatology. They are small and brown, and--as with age spots--tend to show up on areas of the body that receive a lot of sun. In fact, although genetics plays a large role in a person's tendency to develop freckles, the condition is exacerbated by exposure to ultraviolet rays. Freckles are the skin's way of signaling sun damage, according to Dr. Eric F. Bernstein, a clinical associate professor at the University of Pennsylvania School of Medicine.
Melasma is a form of hyperpigmentation that is usually triggered by fluctuating hormones. Two common culprits for this fluctuation include pregnancy and oral contraceptives, says the American College of Dermatology. The condition typically presents as large, dark patches on the face, lending it the nickname "mask of pregnancy." However, the abdomen and other parts of the body may also be affected.
Skin Damage and Injury
Injury to the skin can cause dark spots and marks known as post-inflammatory hyperpigmention, or PIH. This form of hyperpigmentation may occur due to factors such as surgery, acne breakouts, and other inflammatory skin conditions. Though PIH affects members of all races, people of color are more likely to develop the condition, says Dr. Susan Taylor on her website Brownskin.
Treatment and Prevention
Hyperpigmentation is usually benign, but its appearance can be frustrating. Treatment options include topical bleaching agents such as hydroquinone, exfoliating procedures such as dermabrasion and chemical peels, laser therapy and freezing. Regardless of the method of removal, however, treatment begins with identifying or preventing the cause of the condition. Otherwise, every dark spot that is removed has the potential to be replaced by a new one. For some, this may mean discontinuing hormonal birth control, while for others, it means clearing up acne breakouts. Even if the sun was not the original cause of the condition, it will still darken existing spots, so wearing sunscreen and limiting sun exposure are musts. "A single day of excess sun can undo months of treatment," warns the American Osteopathic College of Dermatology.
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