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Home :: Melasma

Melasma - Causes, Symptoms And Treatment

Alternative names :: Chloasma; Mask of pregnancy; Pregnancy mask

What is melasma ?

Melasme is a dark skin discoloration found on sun exposed areas of the face. Melasma is a very common skin disorder. Melasma or chloasma is a brownish discoloration of the face that occurs most often in women. Men can also develop this problem. The brown color often fades in winter and gets worse in the summer. It presents as symmetric hyperpigmented macules, which can be confluent or punctate. The cheeks, the upper lip, the chin, and the forehead are the most common locations, but it can occasionally occur in other sun-exposed locations.

Melasma is a synonymous term sometimes used to describe the occurrence of melasma during pregnancy. Chloasma is derived from the Greek word chloazein, meaning “to be green.” Melas, also Greek, means “black.” Since the pigmentation is never green in appearance, melasma is the preferred term.

What are the causes of melasma ?

Melasma is often associated with the female hormones estrogen and progesterone. It is especially common in pregnant women, women who are taking oral contraceptives ("the pill"), and women taking hormone replacement therapy during menopause. Some of the common causes of melasma are :

  • Pregnancy (mask of pregnancy) is the most common cause of melasma.
  • Women who are taking oral contraceptives are at risk of developing melasma.
  • Sunlight is a major factor in the development of melasma.
  • Melasma is often associated with the female hormones estrogen and progesterone.

What are the symptoms of melasma ?

  • Melasma doesn't cause any other symptoms besides skin discoloration but may be of great cosmetic concern.
  • A uniform brown color is usually seen over the cheeks, forehead, nose, or upper lip. It is most often symmetrical (matching on both sides of the face).

Treatment for the cure of melasma.

  • Do not use skin lighteners or bleaching creams containing steroids. These can cause permanent skin damage including permanent redness, thinning and blood vessel streaks.
  • Also avoid skin lighteners or bleaching creams containing mercury as this is a poison.
  • A strong sun screen such as Shade Lotion SPF 45 should be applied to the face each morning. Helps in the treatment of melasma.
  • A combination of tretinoin cream and a bleaching cream containing hydroquinone may be helpful in fading some types of melasma. Occasionally, your physician may add chemical peels or topical steroid creams as well. In severe cases, laser treatments can be used to remove the dark pigment. Helps to cure melasma
  • Hydroquinone 4% cream (available by prescription) applied to the face twice a day (in the morning before applying sun screen and later in the day) is the main treatment for melasma.

Melasma Prevention

Daily sunscreen use not only helps prevent melasma but is crucial in the prevention of skin cancer and wrinkles.

Melasma Diagnosis & Tests

Your physician can usually diagnose melasma based upon the appearance of your skin. A closer examination using a Wood's lamp may help guide your treatment.

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