Dark Spots – Melasma

June 1, 2010

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Melasma is a skin condition which darkens the skin, primarily in areas which are exposed to the sun.  Melasma can affect anyone and is a very common disorder, however the most frequently diagnosed are young woman with brown to dark skin, and is most common in tropical areas.  There are no symptoms other than dark spots, and Melasma is not detrimental to your health or a pre-cursor to or indicator of cancer.  Even though these discolorations are not life threatening or even unhealthy, their unsightly appearance can be a great concern to individuals, and certainly negative affect self-esteem and psychological well being.

Dark spots resulting from Melasma occur frequently during pregnancy, and can be linked to both progesterone and oestrogen hormone imbalances.  Hormone replacement therapy as well as birth control pills can also aggravate Melasma.  A pre-disposition to this disorder, identifiable and traced through genetics is also a predictive factor for development of skin discolorations when an individual is exposed to the sun.  Finally, certain inflammations of the skin, due to trauma or drugs can also trigger skin spotting.  Physicians diagnose Melasma solely from the appearance of the skin.  A device called a Wood’s lamp can assist the doctor with examining the epidermis in order to make a qualified and accurate diagnosis.

In addition to presenting in dark skinned individuals from Latin countries or Asia, Melasma can also be found commonly in women and men of Native American descent or come from a Russian/German and Jewish background.  Dark spots will appear on Native Americans on the forearms. Russian/German individuals will notice the appearance discolorations on their face.  The disorder is much more common in women than in men, with 90% of all cases being female.  Most cases are reported to occur post puberty.  Over 30% of people with this disorder also report that there is a family history of skin discolorations.  Melasma does not occur over night, and will appear gradually with consistent sun exposure.

Various diseases and illnesses can cause Melasma.  Thyroid disease, allergic reactions and Addison’s disease can trigger outbreaks if combined with ultra violet light exposure. The dark spots will often disappear or at least fade by either the body’s regulation or the re-balancing of hormones, by either stopping the hormonal drugs, delivering a baby, or by an auto-immune disease going into remission.  However, once Melasma has presented itself it will likely return if any of the aggravating features revisit.

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