Melasma is a skin discoloration that shows up as dark and irregular-shaped patches with well-defined areas. Most often, it is found on upper cheeks, upper lip, lip, nose, neck, forehead and forearms. The patches often develop slowly, but can last for many years. It often worsens in the summer and improves in the winter as sun exposure triggers melasma.
It is a common skin problem and does not cause any physical problems or symptoms beyond the discoloration. Melasma affects approximately 15 percent of pregnant women, and accounts for four-to-ten percent of dermatology referrals each year.
Causes of Melasma
As of yet, it is not clear what causes melasma. It likely occurs when the color-making cells in the skin (melanocytes) produce too much pigment (color). There are many contributing factors that include:
- Family history
- Pregnancy or use of birth control pills
- Cosmetics or other skin care products
- Phototoxic medicines (drugs that make skin more susceptible to light damage, such as anti-seizure medication)
- Sun exposure
Melasma occurs when melanocytes (the pigment cells) overproduce melanin. It is also known that melasma has a component of genetic predisposition, as nearly 35 percent of patients who suffer from melasma have affected family members.
Treatment of Melasma
For those who are suffering from melasma due to pregnancy, the melasma will usually go away on its own a few weeks or a few months after delivery. For those who have non-pregnancy related melasma, potential treatment options for melasma include:
- Skin lightening agents
- Chemical peels
- Laser skin rejuvenation
- Maintenance treatment
- Sun protection
- Going off of birth control pills
- Cream/gel/lotion/liquid prescriptions
- Topical medicines
Your doctor can discuss the best course of action for treating your melasma. It is important to note that while many forms of melasma are completely eliminated within the first few weeks or months of treatment, melasma can be resistant to some treatment types. As such, it may take multiple months before you see any improvement in your melasma.
Get a Diagnosis Today
Melasma is not dangerous. However, if you have discolored patches of skin you should get it examined by a medical professional immediately, as it may be something other than melasma. Contact us now at Adult & Pediatric Dermatology, PC to get answers to all of your melasma questions.