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Hyperpigmentation occurs when the skin darkens. It may darken in small patches or affect larger areas. In most cases, there is no medical concern, and the problem is considered more of a cosmetic issue. In some cases though, there may be underlying causes of the hyperpigmentation that can cause medical problems. If hyperpigmentation is not considered a health risk but is a cosmetic worry to the patient, it can be covered with makeup to hide it. 

What is Hyperpigmentation?

Risk Factors of Hyperpigmentation 

There are certain factors that can put a person at risk for hyperpigmentation. These things can be avoided to prevent the skin condition. Some genetic factors can also cause hyperpigmentation. Some common risk factors of the disease include: 

  • Sun or UV damage
  • Scarring
  • Acne
  • Blemishes
  • Certain medications
  • Certain skincare products
  • Ethnicity
  • Freckles
  • Skin Damage

Causes of Hyperpigmentation

There are numerous things that can cause hyperpigmentation, including genetic and environmental factors. Finding the cause of the hyperpigmentation can help doctors come up with appropriate treatment. Sometimes, there is no obvious cause. Some common causes include:

  • Riehl's melanosis 
  • Minocycline 
  • Melarsoprol
  • Incontinentia pigment 
  • Dowling-Degos syndrome 
  • Renal failure, chronic 
  • Hemochromatosis 
  • Melanoma
  • Bleomycin
  • Fanconi anemia 
  • Chloasma
  • Canada-Cronkhite syndrome 
  • Erythromelanosis follicularisfaciei et colli 
  • Variegate porphyria 
  • Carotenemia, familial 
  • Nelson's syndrome 

Causes of Hyperpigmentation

Symptoms of Hyperpigmentation

Hyperpigmentation can be a symptom or the actual problem.  The symptoms are consistent with most patients, but the areas affected can range in size and color. Some people only have tiny dark spots that appear on the skin. Others have entire areas of their bodies that become darker than the rest of their skin. These areas can grow larger over time or become darker in color.

Diagnosis of Hyperpigmentation

Doctors can diagnose hyperpigmentation with a physical exam. They will look at the affected area and determine if there is a reason for the hyperpigmentation and the underlying cause. If doctors are unable to diagnoses the hyperpigmentation with a physical exam, they may instead do a biopsy or take another type of skin sample to test for cancer or other skin problems. 

Treatment of Hyperpigmentation

It is possible to treat hyperpigmentation, but it may not be possible to completely lighten the skin to the original color. Most treatments are topical creams or over-the-counter medications. The most common types of prescribed medications include:

  • Hydroquinone 
  • Alphaquin HP 
  • Alustra 
  • Claripel 
  • Eldopaque
  • Esoterica Regular 
  • Glyquin
  • Lustra

Treatment of Hyperpigmentation

Prognosis of Hyperpigmentation

Most people with hyperpigmentation are able to live normal lives. If treatments are unsuccessful, they may be able to cover the darker areas with makeup and blend it in to match their normal skin color. Hyperpigmentation can change over time and grow to cover larger areas or become darker.

Complications of Hyperpigmentation

Complications caused by hyperpigmentation are not common but can occur. The complications may also be caused by treatments used for hyperpigmentation. Certain medications can lighten the skin too much. Some people also have allergic reactions to the prescribed medications. Patients who experience any complications should seek medical attention.

Hyperpigmentation, Dermatology


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