Skin Treatment for Hyperpigmentation
Hyperpigmentation is a skin condition that can be cosmetically troublesome. The skin's pigment is primarily made up of a compound called melanin, which is produced by cells called melanocytes. Treating hyperpigmentation requires either removing the upper layers of skin, using chemicals that "bleach" the skin, or by treating the underlying causes of hyperpigmentation.
Chemical peels are one method for treating hyperpigmented skin. With chemical peels, a chemical solution is applied to the surface of the skin. This causes the outer layer of the skin to come off, allowing newer skin tissue to come to the surface. This newer skin is often lighter for people suffering from hyperpigmentation. These chemical peels are best done by a trained professional, as they involve the application of caustic chemicals, such as alpha hydroxy acids, tricholoracetic acid and salicylic acid.
Hydroquinone is another chemical that is often used to treat skin hyperpigmentation. Creams containing hydroquinone are available both over-the-counter and with a prescription. These creams can be combined with other compounds, such as tretinoin, which can enhance hydroquinone's lightening effect on the skin.
Dermabrasion is a technique that is often used to lighten the skin's color. The area that will be treated is first sprayed with a chemical that will freeze the skin, after which the dermabrasion is actually performed. The procedure involves a machine with small abrasive brushes or a wheel which then spins very fast and removes the upper layer of the skin. The effect is similar to chemical peels.
Another technique which can be used to treat hyperpigmentation is laser surgery. Laser surgery involves exposing the affected skin to high-intensity bursts of light at specific wavelengths. The light will be absorbed by the hyperpigmented areas which will cause them to vaporize, in effect removing the pigment. Depending on the color of the hyperpigmented area, different kinds of lasers (and different light wavelengths) can be used for maximum effectiveness.
One potential cause of skin discoloration is called Addison's disease. With Addison's disease, the adrenal gland is damaged and produces less of certain chemicals, such as cortisol. In response, the body will try to stimulate the adrenal gland in an effort to jump start cortisol production using a hormone called ACTH. However, high levels of ACTH can also cause patchy skin discoloration. Consequently, treating hyperpigmentation that is the result of Addison's disease requires regular administration of corticosteroids to keep cortisol levels normal.
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