Skin Discoloration - Treatment and Prescriptions

What is Skin Discoloration?

Skin discoloration is a general term used for diseases that turn the skin a different color. There are a seemingly endless list of diseases that could discolor one’s skin like rashes turning skin red or moles turning the skin brown. Therefore, the following discussion will focus on diseases that have skin discoloration as the primary symptom due to problems with skin pigmentation. There are skin conditions ranging from sun damaged skin to types of birthmarks. Here are some common diseases that cause skin discoloration:
  • Vitiligo
  • Melasma
  • Lentigo
  • Freckles
  • Café au lait macules (birthmark)
  • Mongolian spots (birthmark)
  • Albinism
  • Tinea Versicolor
  • Post-inflammatory hyperpigmentation
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Photos


Vitiligo on a patients hand. It is a long-term skin disease that affects the pigment in the skin. A patient with Tinea Versicolor. It is an overgrowth of yeast on the skin, which is often found on the trunk and shoulders.  A young girl with freckles all over her face. Freckles are little brown sun spots that are usually harmless. A picture of a man with albinism. Albinism is a rare genetic disorder that causes the skin and hair to have very little color.

Symptoms

The harmless symptoms of skin discoloration due to pigmentation disorders are all similar because they have to do with an abnormal loss or increase in skin color. One might recognize these as dark spots or white spots. However, they may vary according to their size, location, or color. Here are the different symptoms of each type of skin discoloration:
  • Vitiligo - skin loses natural color in the form of lighter patches that can happen anywhere on the body
  • Melasma - brown to gray brown patches around face
  • Lentigo - there are many types of lentigines including the common type, solar lentigine, which are more commonly known as age spots or liver spots. Their symptoms include flat spots that have color ranging from brown to dark brown or black
  • Freckles - small brown spots in sun exposed skin areas
  • Café au lait (birthmark) - brown, oval spots with irregular edges
  • Mongolian spots (birthmark) - blue to black patches on the back or buttocks around the time of birth
  • Albinism - loss of skin, hair, and eye color
  • Tinea Versicolor - small, discolored patches that have lighter or darker skin that typically appear on the trunk and shoulder parts of the body
  • Post-inflammatory hyperpigmentation - darkened skin following injury or inflammation

Causes

Despite the similarities in their symptoms, some of these diseases have very different causes. One thing they do share is that they’re caused by something tampering with melanocytes and/or melanin release from those melanocytes. Melanocytes are cells in the skin that release a brown to black pigment called melanin. Here is how the different diseases play into the fluctuations in melanocytes and melanin:
  • Vitiligo - It is unknown why, but melanocytes die or stop producing melanin.
  • Melasma - It is unknown why, but melanocytes produce too much melanin.
  • Lentigo - UV rays from sunlight causes an increase in melanocytes in a patch of skin.
  • Freckles - UV rays from sunlight causes an increase in melanin production in a patch of skin.
  • Café au lait (birthmark) - The cause is unknown.
  • Mongolian spots (birthmark) - The cause is unknown.
  • Albinism - Inherited genetic condition where there is little to no melanin being produced.
  • Tinea Versicolor - Fungus called tinea versicolor interferes to cause more or less pigmentation production.
  • Post-inflammatory hyperpigmentation - Melanin is excessively released because of inflammation.

Treatment

Skin discoloration due to varying pigmentation levels are generally treated by decreasing melanin concentrations on darker spots. Skin bleaching treatments help reduce melanin concentrations in the skin to bring skin back to a normal skin tone.

Home Remedies

While home remedies have taken on popularity, there are little to no studies confirming the effectiveness of such treatments. In some cases, it might even do more harm than good considering their minimal effectiveness versus the unknown side effects they could have on your body. It’s best to follow the medical advice of a dermatologist because they know what will or will not treat the disease. Here are some popular home remedies that you should be careful with:
  • Green Tea Extract
  • Aloe Vera
  • Coconut Oil
  • Apple Cider Vinegar

Over the Counter Medication

While some over the counter (OTC) medications are effective enough to be given as prescriptions, other OTC medications have limited effects on disease. They might help for mild to moderate cases, but they aren’t usually effective on severe ones. If used incorrectly and without guidance, they might even prove to be ineffective and produce unforeseen side effects. However, a dermatologist can tell you whether or not these can be effective for you. Here are some OTC medications that may or may not be included in a treatment plan given by one of our dermatologists:
  • Lightening or bleaching creams - Reduces melanin production.
  • Face acids - Exfoliates skin to increase skin cell turnover to bring healthier skin up to overall reduce abnormal skin darkening.
  • Chemical peels - Exfoliates skin to increase skin cell turnover to bring healthier skin up to overall reduce abnormal skin darkening.
  • Antifungals - This kills fungus from tinea versicolor, but will not restore lost skin color.

Prescription

Prescriptions, alongside professional medical advice, are the most effective form of treatment. Home remedies and over the counter treatments take plenty of time, energy, and money, yet are uncertain to work. Our experienced dermatologists take your unique skin, set of symptoms, and medical history into account to take the guessing game out of your road to recovery. Here are some prescriptions your dermatologist might include in your personalized treatment plan:
  • Hydroquinone - A skin bleaching drug that highly reduces melanocyte melanin production
  • Retinoids - Prescription strength highly increases skin cell turnover to bring healthier skin up to overall reduce abnormal skin darkening.
  • Antifungals - This kills fungus from tinea versicolor, but will not restore lost skin tone.
Our dermatologists have resolved countless skin discoloration cases with medications and treatment plans that are proven to fix your skin discoloration once and for all. Trust dermatologists, the experts on skin discoloration.
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Post Treatment Prevention

After being seen by one of our SkyMD dermatologists, you’ve been equipped with the treatment plan and prescription(s) to treat your discomfort. However, disease can be persistent, so you have to be too. A skin care routine and a set of disease-preventing habits recommended by our dermatologists are essential for long term prevention. Here are some popular prevention strategies that could supplement your personalized treatment plan:
  • Wear sunscreen to reduce the likelihood of UV induced dark spots from sun exposure

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