Hypopigmentation- Causes, Treatments, and Prevention 

Hypopigmentation is a disease, which gives you a discoloration of the skin. It is due to the absence or shortage of melanin that is a chemical responsible for giving skins its distinct color. This discoloration is due to some reasons, i.e., an injury, infection, wound, burn, trauma to the skin, etc.

Hypopigmentation may become tricky to deal. Usually, it is treated with topical medicines, which help to reduce its effects. There are certain light based procedures, i.e., excimer lasers, Fraxel Restore laser or IPL that can also work well on discolored skin.

Melanin levels inside the body are defined for each. When skin cells, which produce melanocytes (the technical term for melanin) function slow or not work at all, the condition is called hypopigmentation. It means the loss of the skin color.

Sometimes hypopigmentation is also referred as skin depigmentation.

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What causes hypopigmentation to occur?

The most common causes of hypopigmentation are an injury or a trauma of skin, burns, boils, infections, blisters, scrapes, pimples and anything that ruptures the skin. All of these tends to cause skin discoloration.

Some improperly completed skin procedures can also result in discoloration. They include Photofacials, laser peels, chemical peels and other cosmetic treatments.

Sometimes, hypopigmentation is due to a skin inflammation. This specific type of hypopigmentation is called post-inflammatory hypopigmentation (PIH).

Sometimes it confuses people, but PIH is also used to say post-inflammatory hyperpigmentation that is a different skin condition. In hyperpigmentation, the melanin levels are increased not decreased.

Specific skin disorders can also be a reason for hyperpigmentation. For example, following infections can cause reduction of melanin.

  • Albinism
  • Vitiligo
  • Seborrheic dermatitis
  • Tinea versicolor
  • Pityriasis alba and others

What is the treatment for Hypopigmentation?

There are not many options to treat hypopigmentation. Post-inflammatory hypopigmentation can be treated with topical corticosteroids, light treatment, laser or surgery. You may see some treatment options for hypopigmentation, i.e., cosmetic cure-alls, IPL, excimer lasers, and the Fraxel Restore laser but they may or may not work for everyone.

If there is a skin disorder that is causing hypopigmentation, the treatment will have topical ointments and medication both. When hypopigmentation is unresponsive to the medicines, it is better to use cosmetic therapies, i.e., tattoo or permanent make up on it.

If the hypopigmentation has affected major part, let’s say half part of your body; overall de-pigmentation is one option that you have. It is a rare condition of vitiligo.

The topical medicines prescribed for the patients of hypopigmentation can be anything among hydroquinone, TriLuma, and some other skin lightening products.

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What are the most common forms of hypopigmentation?

Hypopigmentation can be present in many common forms around us. Each one of these has a different treatment option. Only a specialist doctor can prescribe you a useful treatment option.

Albinism

Albinism is a disease that is well known for all of us. It is characterized by discoloration of the skin. In albinism, there is an absence of dark skin shades, i.e., black/brown hair, eyebrows, skin, iris of the eye, etc.

Albinism is genetic, and it shows at the time of birth. By the time it gradually spreads. People with albinism are called albinos. The albino people have a different genetic makeup than normal people regarding melanin production.

In albino’s body, specific gene functions to restrict the body to make melanin. Albinism also shows its impact by causing several forms of visual impairment. That includes eye movement, photosensitivity, weaker eyesight, etc.

Melanin levels are also required to form protection from the sun. The UV rays affect albino more than healthy people which can cause damage to the eyes and skin. In worst cases, it will lead to skin cancer.

Vitiligo

Another example of hypopigmentation is vitiligo. It is an uneven skin discoloration that may or may not be present on the whole body. A patient of vitiligo has specific discolored skin patches on his body, which are lighter than the rest. In case you think vitiligo is not common, there are 35-70 million people affected by it on a global scale.

Vitiligo is an autoimmune disease, which weakens the immunity as well. This is due to a weak immune system that an abnormal gene starts controlling skin coloration. The reduction of melanin levels also means that there is some abnormality destroying melanocytes.

The de-pigmented patches of skin may be present at any part of the body. The spot varies by location, size, and color. It is common to have them on the face, near mouth, nose, eyes, and ears. Sometimes the affected area also exhibits greying or whitening of hair.

It is not necessary for vitiligo to be seen at the time of birth. People affected with vitiligo have a potential to have it at any stage of life. Usually, these white patches begin to show up before 20 years of age. Vitiligo is genetic which means it runs from generation to generation.

Not just the skin disease, vitiligo is also associated with type-1 diabetes, rheumatoid arthritis, and celiac disease.

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Other Forms of Hypopigmentation

The article has only discussed the most common forms of hypopigmentation, i.e., vitiligo and albinism. There are so many different manifestations of this skin discoloration as well. Early age kids are more likely to exhibit Pityriasis Alba, which looks more like eczema.

It commonly affects the face and leaves white scaly patches on the skin. Some congenital disorders also leave spots like this. You should not mix them with hypopigmentation. Only a dermatologist can diagnose hypopigmentation correctly.

External factors such as yeast and fungal infections can also leave white patches on the skin which may confuse you. Consult your healthcare provider if you see any discoloration on your skin.

Is treatment of hypopigmentation necessary?

Albinism, vitiligo, and all other forms of hypopigmentation are not that damaging, but they are highly stigmatized by our society. The patient of hypopigmentation feels abnormal and left out. Even healthy people refuse to maintain social contact with them. In result of this, the patient of hypopigmentation is at a high risk of social isolation.

Many people have embraced their hypopigmentation, and they don’t hide it. Still, this is not even a considerable number. There are a lot more people, which are hiding it and standing on the verge of other medical conditions.

The question of if the treatment of hypopigmentation is necessary has its answer concerning the patient’s condition and history. Only an expert doctor can answer this question. Embracing the situation is a better idea, which will make the life easier for hypopigmentation patients.

How to prevent hypopigmentation?

There is no way that you can do to prevent the hypopigmentation from affecting you. But you can always use the preventive measures to reduce the risk. Take care of your skin by washing, exfoliating and moisturizing it.

Make sure that the bruises and wounds are treated with care. Do not prick acne and never leave a scar untreated. In case of a skin injury, don’t hesitate to ask questions to your doctor about the recovery of the skin particularly related to skin discoloration chances.

Use a good quality sunscreen whenever you go out. The best is to use the one, which has SPF 30 at least. Follow all the precautionary measures. If there is a possible risk of a genetic hypopigmentation, get it treated as soon as it appears on the skin.