Did you know that skin gets its color from a pigment called melanin?

Posted by Alisha Meehan on

 

 

 

Melanin is the pigment that produces the various shades and colors of human skin, hair, and eyes. Pigmentation is determined by the amount of melanin in the skin. Without melanin, the skin would be pale white with shades of pink caused by blood flow through the skin. Fair-skinned people produce very little melanin, and very dark-skinned people produce the most. Melanin is evenly distributed in the skin, but sometimes people have spots or patches of skin that are caused by overactive pigment cells. Examples of such spots include freckles, age spots (lentigines), and melasma.

Pigment disorders can be widespread and affect many areas of skin;

 

 

 

 

 Pigment disorders can be widespread and affect many areas of skin;

  • Depigmentation - complete loss of pigment. The skin is white. Widespread depigmentation occurs in vitiligo.
  • Hypopigmentation - abnormally low amount of melanin. The skin is lighter in color than normal. Widespread hypopigmentation of the skin occurs in albinism.
  • Hyperpigmentation - usually caused by an abnormally high amount of melanin, but sometimes it is caused by deposition of other pigmented substances that are not normally present in the skin. The skin is darker in color and sometimes is a different color than normal.

Causes of these pigmentation disorders;

Vitiligo – a condition where the body’s immune system attacks pigment cells (melanocytes), causing pigment loss. Other autoimmune disorders associated with vitiligo include diabetes, pernicious anemia, thyroid disease, and Addison’s disease. Vitiligo causes smooth, white skin patches, usually around the mouth and eyes, or on the back of the hands.

Albinism – an inherited disorder that is caused by the absence of the pigment melanin, and results in no pigmentation in the skin, hair, or eyes. Albinos have an abnormal gene that restricts the production of melanin.

Melasma – a common skin problem that causes brown patches, usually on the cheeks, nose, forehead, chin and above the upper lip. Women are more likely to develop melasma than men. It is very common during pregnancy (sometimes called “the mask of pregnancy”). Caused partly by sun, genetic predisposition, and hormonal changes.

 

 

 


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