Pigmentation Problems & Diagnosis

Pigmentation problems will manifest in the skin’s appearance. Skin may become discolored or blotchy, making areas of the skin appear lighter or darker than normal. Pigmentation disorders are caused by an overproduction or underproduction of melanin, which is a natural pigment in the body that produces hair, eye and skin color. One form of pigmentation is hyper-pigmentation, when the body produces too much melanin. This causes the skin to become darker than usual and results in uneven skin tone. Another is hypo-pigmentation, which results in the loss of color in the skin. These pigmentation problems manifest in a range of conditions that can be caused by many things. Pigmentation can be caused by drug reactions, medications, hormonal changes, autoimmune conditions or genetic inheritance. The biggest cause of skin pigmentation is sun damage. Local increases in skin pigment production appear as age spots, moles or liver spots. Freckles are a result of variation in skin pigmentation in which pigment is not released evenly.

Diagnosis of a pigmentation problem is best performed by a doctor, as while some conditions are painless and small, pigmentation changes in your skin can be symptoms of a more serious problem. The doctor will conduct a physical examination and ask you several questions when assessing your condition. It is important to answer honestly as any number of causes could be responsible for the condition. The doctor may also request diagnostic tests. To determine whether the pigmentation problem is acute or chronic, the doctor may ask how long you have had the condition. They may also ask if the condition is localized or generalized. If it is generalized your liver may not be functioning properly due to jaundice or chronic liver disease. If it is localized, the area in which you are affected will provide clues at to what kind of pigmentation condition you are suffering from. For example, pigmentation on areas of the body that are subject to sun exposure will likely be caused by UV. Dermatologists recommend the use of sunscreen every day. You can use UVA or UVB sunscreen with SPF 30 or more. Limiting exposure to the sun all year round will also help with this problem. For women, pigmentation on the forehead, nose and upper lip in a symmetrical pattern could be caused by hormonal changes. Sometimes changes in pigmentation are symptomatic of a potentially dangerous disease. Yellow pigmentation all over your body may suggest liver disease, while a mole or spot that has changed in color or formation may be cancerous or pre-cancerous. If you notice changes to the pigmentation of your skin, it is advisable that you make an appointment to see a doctor before self-diagnosis and self-treatment.

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