Infections of the skin, especially fungal infections like tinea versicolor, can cause hypomelanosis. Post inflammatory hypopigmentation (PIH) is caused as a result of inflammation, damage or trauma to the skin as in the case of infections, dermatitis, burns, blisters and pimples. In some cases, improperly conducted chemical or cosmetic laser treatments can cause skin damage and hyperpigmentation or hypomelanosis. Here in this post various skin conditions leading to hypopigmentation are briefly described.
White discoloration on skin
White discoloration of skin occurs due to loss of or reduction in melanin pigment and hypomelanosis on the skin. The melanin pigment in the skin gives the skin coloration ranging from white to dark black. The amount of melanin to be produced by the skin and the color of a person are decided by the genetic factors.
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Albinism disorder is an inherited hypomelanosis condition wherein little or no pigment is produced by the body. Albinism involves different genes and hence there are different types.
Albinos have various degrees of vision impairment and tender skin. Some affected persons may be nearly blind. The retina of albinos may be impaired during the development.
For more information read 'Facts about albinism disorder'.
Albinism disorder types
Albinism, hypomelanosis disorders, are of several types and basically all types are caused by genetic defects. There are 15 genetic locations in the chromosomes, the defects of which are associated with albinism. Oculocutaneous type of albinism involves hypomelanosis of eyes (ocular), skin (cutaneous) and hair. The mutation of GPR143 gene on X chromosome causes ocular albinism (OA1).
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Idiopathic guttate hypomelanosis
Idiopathic guttate hypomelanosis are very common hypopigmentation spots seen usually on the exposed parts of the body like shin and forearm. These hypomelanosis spots are drop-like in appearance and are small in size (2-5 mm). These hypopigmentation white spots begin to appear around the age of 30 years and are found to affect far more women than men.
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Idiopathic guttate hypomelanosis - causes
The causes for this hypopigmentation disorder are not exactly known. As these hypomelanosis white spots are generally found on the exposed parts of the body, one possible cause may be excessive exposure to sunlight. These spots start appearing in the late twenties and early thirties. Hence, aging process could be one of the possible causes of hypomelanosis.
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Idiopathic guttate hypomelanosis - treatment
These hypopigmentation white spots are harmless and do not require any treatment. However for individuals conscious about aesthetic appearance treatments for hypomelanosis are available.
Treatments includes application of topical steroids or retinoids, dermabrasion or microdermabrasion, cryotherapy, cosmetic cover-up, surgery and grafting.
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Nevus depigmentosus is white spot with hypopigmentation. Nevus depigmentosus is congenital, benign and non progressive. These patches usually appear on the trunk, hands and feet. In most of the cases they are present at the time of birth. Functional and morphological anomalies of melanocytes and melanosomes appear to cause this condition.
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Pityriasis alba is an atopic dermatitis with hypopigmentation. Pityriasis alba affects children mostly on their face. Children of the age between 3 and 16 years are generally affected. Initially the hypopigmentation spots may appear red or pink. Later these white patches fade and appear pale and dry.
For more information read 'pityriasis alba white spots'.
Pityriasis alba - causes
The real cause of pityriasis alba is not known. A number of possible causes are being postulated. The microscopic analysis of the skin scrapings rules out the involvement of bacteria or fungi. Further studies have revealed that there is reduction in the number of functional melanocytes and decrease of melanosomes in size and number.
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Pityriasis alba - symptoms
Pityriasis alba initially appear as raised red patches which after some days become flat and pale. The hypopigmentation is partial in the spots. The hypomelanosis macules are usually limited to face, especially on the cheeks, around mouth and chin. On closer examination these white patches show small dry scales.
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Pityriasis alba - treatment
In most of the cases pityriasis alba resolves by itself without any treatment after some time. However the pigmentation of the hypopigmentation spots of the affected skin will be slow and take considerable time. The application of moisturizers can help in dehydrating the skin and reduce and prevent dryness as well as scale formation.
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Tinea versicolor (pityriasis versicolor) are fungal infections. Tinea versicolor is superficial, benign, common, recurrent and noncontagious. This infection is usually restricted to stratum corneum layer of the epidermis. Tinea versicolor characterized by patches of hypomelanosis. Sometimes these spots may be hyperpigmented.
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Tinea versicolor - causes
Tinea versicolor (pityriasis versicolor) is caused by yeast variety of fungi belonging to Malassezia group. Malaassexia furfur and M.globosa are the main causative fungi. They are part of the normal resident flora of the human skin. Under certain conditions like heat and humidity, these fungi can proliferate rapidly and cause the infection and hypopigmentation.
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Tinea versicolor - symptoms
Tinea versicolor appears as itchy patches of hypopigmentation or hyperpigmentation.
The flat macules are of circular and oval shape with sharp margins. The infection worsens in hot and humid conditions with intense itch. It is superficial infection affecting the stratum corneum layer of the epidermis. Usually fine scales are present.
For more information read 'tinea versicolor symptoms'.
Tinea versicolor - treatment
Tinea versicolor can be effectively treated with a wide variety of medications. In early stages topical creams and lotions available over the counter can be bought and applied. Some of the topical applications are, tea tree oil, selenium sulphide shampoo,
clotrimazole cream, terbinafine cream, cassia alata leaves and ciclopirox olamine.
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Vitiligo (leucoderma) is a skin disorder in which hypopigmentation patches occur due to
loss of melanin pigment of the skin. The loss of skin pigmentation, can be focal, segmental and non-segmental. These white patches of hypopigmentation may spread and grow over time to cover greater area of the body.
For more information read 'vitiligo (leucoderma)'.
Vitiligo - causes
The basic cause of vitiligo is the stoppage of melanin pigment production or death of melanocytes. Due to some physiological conditions, hypomelanosis patches form and grow. Possible factors causing this hypopigmentation disorder are, autoimmune diseases, thyroid disorders, hereditary and genetic disorders, stress and environmental conditions.
For more information read 'causes of vitiligo'.
Vitiligo - signs
Signs of vitiligo include the development of flat hypopigmentation patches without any scale formation. These hypomelanosis patches occur prominently on the extremities. Though vitiligo appears initially as small spots, it progresses and spreads all over the body. The orifices of the body as well as the sun the exposed areas are mostly affected by hypopigmentation.
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Vitiligo - diagnosis
Hypopigmentation of face particularly around mouth, eyes, nostrils and ears indicate the possibility of development of vitiligo. The hypomelanosis of the orifices of the body like mouth, nostrils, ears, umbilicus, anal opening and genital opening could be the indicator of development of leucoderma disease.
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Vitiligo - camouflage by micropigmentation
For focal, non progressive and static vitiligo micropigmentation (camouflage tattoo) can be successfully done. Colors like black, white (titanium oxide), camel yellow, brown (iron oxide), red (mercuric sulphate, cinnabar) are used in vitiligo camouflage. The expertise of the tattoo professional play a great part in the success of this tattoo procedure for treating hypopigmentation.
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Vitiligo - cure - repigmentation
In patients with focal or segmental vitiligo, autologous melanocyte transplantation and
repigmentation of the hypopigmentation spots can be tried. Patient's own melanocytes are harvested from his normal areas of skin and cultured in a medium. These cultured melanocytes are introduced into hypomelanosis spots for further growth and repigmentation.
For more information read 'vitiligo cure and repigmentation'.
Vitiligo research is now focused on autologous melanocyte transplantation, stem cell transplantation and genetic aspects of vitiligo. undifferentiated melanocytes or stem cells are present in the outer root sheath of hair follicle. The transplantation of these stem cells will repopulate the deficient skin with active melanocytes at the hypopigmentation sites.
For more information read 'latest research trends in vitiligo research'.
current topic: Skin hypopigmentation (hypomelanosis)