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Melasma: Symptoms, Diagnosis, and Treatments

Melasma: Symptoms, Diagnosis, and Treatments

What is Melasma?

Melasma is a skin problem in which your skin becomes patchy, tan or there is blue-grey skin discoloration. It is also considered as chloasma or a ‘mask of pregnancy. 

Several women during their reproductive years suffer from melasma, however, it is found very rare in men. This skin problem is mainly related to external sun exposure & hormones like birth control pills.

Being a woman, you can also suffer from melasma when you go through several internal hormonal changes during pregnancy. It is often noticed that 90% of people who suffer from this skin problem are women. 

Women suffering from melasma also have a history of daily or irregular sun exposure. Though it is medically harmless for various people, it is a cause of embarrassment and they look for treatment. 

Some of the common triggers of melasma include:

  • Skin tone
  • Increased estrogen hormones
  • Sun exposure
  • Pregnancy
  • Skin inflammation
  • Genetics
  • Certain drugs

There are also three types of melasma like epidermal, dermal, and mixed melasma.

  1. Epidermal melasma is dark brown and also has a well-defined border. 
  2. Dermal melasma is light brown to bluish in color and has a blurry border.
  3. Mixed melasma is the most common one which has both bluish wells as brown patches. 

Symptoms

You need to know that melasma causes hyperpigmentation which is darker than your original skin color. Your skin starts looking blotchy and uneven along with uneven borders on the discolored spots. 

Remember that discoloration can be slightly dark than your normal skin color and even extremely dark. As per your skin tone and the harshness of the melasma, the discoloration can vary from light brown to black. 

It is necessary to know that melasma occurs on the areas of your skin which is exposed to the sun-like face. Some of the other common areas include above the upper lip, across the cheeks, forehead as well as nose. 

This skin problem can develop anywhere on the face and even on your chest, upper back, and upper arms. 

One thing that you need to keep in your mind is that melasma primarily occurs symmetrically on the face. 

The marks of melasma are flat and they do not itch, burn or hurt. 

If you find these symptoms then it is important to consult your doctor immediately and seek treatment. 

Diagnosis

Your skin will be examined in order to diagnose melasma by the dermatologist or other healthcare provider. 

The doctor might look at your skin under a wood lamp to see the level of the pigmentation clearly. 

A wood lamp is basically a type of black light that illuminates the skin properly. 

As a result, it is easy for the doctor to see pigmentation and sun damage when compared to normal skin. 

This lamp exposes sun damage on the skin’s surface and the damage which is not visible to the naked eye.

Your doctor might also ask for a thyroid check because there is some link between thyroid disease and melasma. 

Sometimes, melasma can be mistaken for another skin condition due to which a biopsy of the affected area is done. 

Although, it is very rare but done to confirm whether it is melasma or not. 

This skin disorder is not contagious but an extremely common cosmetic problem. 

You need to know that melasma is not a precancerous skin condition which means it will not turn into skin cancer. 

But if you are exposed to the sun excessively which is a trigger factor of developing melasma, you can develop skin cancer. 

Treatment 

Melasma is not a harmful condition but it is always better to treat it under the supervision of the doctor. 

If you suffer from melasma during pregnancy then it will fade away gradually. 

Women who take oral contraceptives or hormone replacement therapy will see patches fading away once the medicines are stopped. 

However, some treatment options can help you to deal with melasma effectively.

Hydroquinone

It is a cream that takes pigment out from the skin and hunks natural chemical processes that cause the creation of melanin. Melanin is a substance that makes your skin dark. 

Azelaic acid cream 

This cream works by slowing down or averting the production of pigment, a substance that makes skin dark. 

Tretinoin

It is vitamin A that increases the rate at which dead skin cells fall off and new ones appear. 

Tretinoin Gel helps in disappearing the melasma patch quickly as the pigmented cells are shed. 

Intense pulsed light therapy 

This therapy makes use of certain wavelengths of light to target and eliminates pigmented areas of skin. 

Chemical peels

It is a liquid solution that is applied to the skin that further peels off the burned layers. 

Therefore, melasma is a common skin condition that can be treated easily.