Pigmentation

The types of skin pigmentation
If we look around us we will see people of many different ethnic backgrounds and as different as they all might seem there seems to be something that’s constant. As much as we differ when it comes to fingerprints and dental formula, we do share a common skin color. There are two distinct colors when it comes to the skin. There’s dark skin and light skin, and lots of shades inbetween. Some races fall in between the two. The difference in skin color is a result of the production of a pigment called melanin which is responsible for skin color. People of African descent naturally have more melanin resulting in their dark skin. People of Caucasian descent have less of the melanin thus resulting in lighter skin. When an imbalance of the pigment occurs, it results in skin pigmentation.

The main cause of skin pigmentation is too much exposure to the sun. Other minor causes can be reactions to medication and hormonal changes. Usually it is a condition that can be reversed but when left untreated for long periods the damage may be permanent leaving that part of the skin permanently producing darkened skin cells.

There are a number of different types of skin pigmentation as described below.

Hypopigmentation- this usually refers to an underproduction or a total lack of production of melanin. A wound like a blister or a burn will always be lighter than the surrounding skin because melanin was lost.

Albinism- this is a permanent hereditary skin pigmentation condition. Albinos are characterized by grey eyes, yellow hair and very light skin. Such people get affected by the least exposure to the sun as it is harmful for them so they have to use sunscreen at all times to prevent diseases like skin cancer.

Vitiligo- this is more like hypo pigmentation as an area of the skin just loses its color leading to white or light patches. These patches are very sensitive to the sun. About 2% of the population is affected by this condition. This condition is likely to affect those with darker skin and doctors believe that it may be an autoimmune disorder.

Hyperpigmentation- this is the opposite of hypopigmentation and is the production of too much melanin resulting in dark skin for those who previously had lighter skin. Birthmarks and moles are common examples of hyper pigmentation. It can also be seen in wounds which leave behind scars which are darker than the rest of the skin.

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