Skin Discolorations and their Causes

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discoloration, skin

Discoloration of the skin occurs in men and women and can be visible on all areas of the body.  To understand the causes you need to know how your skin gets its normal color. The top layer of your skin, called the epidermis, contains cells called melanocytes, which produce the pigment melanin. Melanin has many functions, one of which is to help block ultraviolet rays. When you tan and your skin turns brown, that’s the melanin working to protect the layers of your skin.

A Few Causes of Skin Discoloration

  • Yellow skin caused by Jaundice: Jaundice of the skin occurs most frequently in infants during the first two weeks of life. It is characterized by a yellowish cast on the skin which is caused by excess bilirubin. Jaundiced infants usually recover quickly after they start breastfeeding or become exposed to the sun.
  • Vitiligo: This non-contagious skin condition is a condition in which your melanin-making cells stop working or die. The result is patches of white, colorless skin. This may be an indication of an autoimmune or hormone disorder, so be sure to see a healthcare provider for a solution or treatment.
  •  Rosacea: It primarily affects people of northwestern European descent. It causes flushed skin characterized with small, dilated blood vessels or rough patches with little pimples in the face. It can be seen in men and women. The actual cause of it is unknown, but it’s most often seen in 30-50 year old females with fair skin.
  • Cyanosis: This is the appearance of a blue or purple coloration of the skin or mucous membranes due to low oxygen in the tissues near the skin surface. This condition can occur slowly or suddenly. It can be an indication of underlying problems with the lungs or the heart.
  • Melasma: This is when increased melanin production darkens skin when exposed to the sun. These darkened patches are known as chloasma. This can also be caused by hormone imbalance during pregnancy but it will usually fade after the delivery of the baby.
  • Sunburn: This occurs when the skin is exposed to the ultra violet (UV) rays of the sun. The skin can become red and inflamed. Melanin rushes to the exposed skin to shield UV rays in order to protect it, resulting in the brown, sun tanned color.

Skin cancer can be very dangerous and this is why it is always important to have any skin discolorations checked out, even if they are small or seemingly harmless. Your physician will be able to easily determine whether there are any reasons for caution, and if so, treatments that you can choose from to reduce the possibility of skin cancer. It’s also a good idea to make an appointment with your doctor once a year to check for any possible skin issues.

Many skin discolorations are often harmless. Some, such as a small infection on the skin, will only need a basic treatment. But other causes of skin discoloration may be more serious and will require on-going treatment. Skin cancer is a very serious issue and it may require surgery and chemotherapy to treat. It is important to check with your doctor if you notice rapid or bothersome texture or color changes in your skin.


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