There are several different skin pigmentation disorders that can cause pigmentation on face, body or both. Here is a brief overview of some of those disorders.
A person’s skin gets its colour from a pigment called melanin. The primary function of melanin is protection from the sun’s UV rays. UV rays activate melanin in the skin, causing it to darken. The darkened skin will then absorb the UV rays and keep them from penetrating the deeper layers of skin and damaging them. Skin pigmentation disorders affect the amount of melanin in the skin; the melanin-producing cells are become damaged or destroyed. As a result, the skin’s colouring is uneven.
One of many skin pigmentation disorders is albinism. Albinism is a genetic disorder in which the body produces no melanin at all. The individual affected by albinism will have no pigment in her skin and will have very light hair and eyes. Albinism is not curable, as it results from an abnormal gene, and is written into an individual’s genetic code. This disorder can occur in any race. A person with albinism must protect his skin with sunscreen at all times to prevent skin damage. Skin cancer is a common problem for people with albinism.
Vitiligo is also on the list of skin pigmentation disorders. Vitiligo is a disorder resulting from damage to melanocytes (pigment-producing cells) in the skin. White patches appear on the skin on various parts of the body. The causes of vitiligo are unknown, although it is suspected that diabetes or physical trauma are possible factors. Vitiligo is incurable, but it can be treated. A common treatment involves combining light sensitive drugs called psoralens with Ultraviolet A light waves.
Melasma, or chloasma, is a condition that causes dark patches of skin. Most of the time this disorder affects the face, and is often called ‘pregnancy mask.’ This disorder does not affect just women; men can develop melasma as well. Often this condition will go away without treatment, but if it persists a doctor can prescribe one of several creams that can treat the melasma.
Skin pigmentation disorders are usually not life threatening. However, since the disorder is so clearly displayed on the outside of the body, they may cause extreme psychological discomfort causing the sufferer to seek out a cure, or at least something to mask the pigmentation on face. Furthermore, it is important to take measures to protect the skin from sun exposure if the skin is affected by a lack of pigment.