Monday, November 29

Black, dark discoloration of skin - Brown spots and patches

Black, dark brown skin discoloration spots and patches

Dark brown discoloration of skin and patches is due to hyperpigmentation.

Brown discoloration of skin and formation of pigmented patches in most of the cases is caused by excessive production of the melanin pigment.

Sun damage, diseases, inflammation, hormonal imbalances, injuries etc. can cause excess pigmentation leading to skin discoloration and the incidence of dark brown skin patches. People with dark skin tones as with Mediterranean, African or Asian origins are more prone for excess pigmentation.

Sun exposure

Sun exposure, which has ultraviolet A and ultraviolet B radiation, brings about color changes in two different ways. Initially the Ultraviolet A (UVA) radiation which is usually in the range of 320 to 400 nm., by oxidative stress, causes the release of melanin from the melanocytes and causes its oxidation by combining with oxygen leading to rapid darkening discoloration patches of melanin.

Secondly, melanogenesis, which is skin reaction to photo-damage from UV radiation (CPD-DNA damage or direct DNA damage), increases the production of melanin pigment. The tanning or darkening by melanogenesis is a delayed reaction and the brown patches become visible only about three days after exposure. Sunscreens, umbrellas and hats can go a long way in protection from sun damage.

Freckles, age or liver patches and lentigines

Freckles (aka ephelis) are brown discoloration often visible in people with fair complexion and are concentrated clusters of melanin deposits.
Though many people have freckles, their origin is genetic in nature and freckles are triggered by exposure to sun.

Freckles contrast from moles and lentigines in that there is no increase in the number of melanin producing cells. Lentigo (plural lentigines) is a benign hyperplasia (proliferation of cells) of melanocytes. Regardless of sun exposure lentigo is stable in color and differ from moles in its linear spread, whereas moles are multilayer nests of melanocytes.

Liver patches are associated with aging and are blemishes on the skin associated with exposure to UV radiation from the sun. These dark brown liver patches particularly form on the face, hands, neck, shoulders and head. Freckles, lentigines and liver patches are benign and harmless and if required can be treated with skin whitening treatments

Melasma - brown patches

Chloasma or melasma are dark hyperpigmentation patches particularly common in women. Melasma are irregular dark, brown patches of excess pigment found on the nose, upper cheek, lips and forehead causing cosmetic discoloration. Melasma is usually prevalent in pregnant women (mask of pregnancy), women using contraceptives or women under HRT (hormone replacement therapy) medications.

Melasma patches also prevalent in men and women of Jewish descent, Russian descent, German descent and Native American descent. Genetic predisposition, thyroid diseases and female hormones (estrogen and progesterone) are the determining factors of developing melasma.

Melanocytic nevus (mole) skin discoloration

Melanocytic nevus is a common dark brown growth of the epidermis which are known as birth mark. Melanocytic nevus may form subdermal under the skin or form a pigmented growth on the dermis. Melanocytic nevi present at the time of birth or around the time of birth are called congenital nevi.

Melanocytic nevi may also appear in the childhood or later stages of life and their discoloration may range fromlight to very dark brown. Though in most of the cases Melanocytic nevi are harmless, any mole which changes color, shape, size or hurts may have to be investigated as some can turn into melanoma (a type of skin cancer).

Addison's disease

Addison's disease, a chronic adrenal insufficiency disease, is a rare endocrine disorder wherein adrenal glands malfunction or show functional insufficiency. Apart from the symptoms like weight loss, weakness, nausea, fever, diarrhea, muscle pains and headache, the Addison's disease affected person suffers from dark brown skin discoloration patches. It can give rise to brown freckles on the face, neck and shoulders and also dark brown skin discoloration patches on the knees, elbows, toes, knuckles and forehead.


Alkaptonuria or dark urine disease is a rare inherited disorder leading to degradation of tyrosine and production and accumulation of homogentisic acid. Alkaptonuria causes damage to cartilage and heart valves and precipitates formation of kidney stones. Alkaptonuria disorder leads to dark brown patches of skin in sun exposed areas and around sweat glands.

Acanthosis nigricans is brown to dark, velvety, poorly defined skin discoloration. Acanthosis nigricans dark brown skin discoloration patches usually found in the body folds like groins, armpits, neck folds etc. Acanthosis nigricans, typically occurs in persons below 40 years and it is associated with obesity, hormonal anamallies and insulin resistance. Control of blood sugar and obesity improves the symptoms.

Scleroderma diabeticorum and dark brown patches

Scleroderma diabeticorum is a rare disorder affecting people with type 2 diabetes. Scleroderma diabeticorum causes thickening of epidermis on the upper back and the back of the neck with excess of dark brown patches melanin deposits. Scleroderma diabeticorum can be treated by bringing blood sugar under control and using moisturizers for softening the epidermis.

Dark, brown skin discoloration between thighs and in armpits

In some persons, especially in obese persons, the skin between the thighs and also in the armpits gets dark brown discoloration patches due excess melanocyte deposit as a result of excessive sweating and dead cells build-up leading to dermatitis and related fungal infections. Use of antifungal preparations followed by exfoliation and dermabrasion, if necessary, can remove the excess skin pigmentation and the dark brown patches to a great extent.

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