Most pigmentary disorders are either interchangeably confused due to similarities in their symptom manifestations or are almost entirely neglected in terms of proper education on their development, progress and treatment. In order to understand a particular disease, disorder or skin abnormality better, it is extremely important to get the right information on it so you know how to deal with your particular problem. Whenever you notice a change on your skin, make sure you promptly consult your appointed dermatologists.
Before we go into details on what melasma and vitiligo are, you should know what pigmentary disorders include: darkening of the skin or hyperpigmentation and decrease in the normal skin color or hypopigmentation. And the two most common disorders are melasma (hyperpigmentation) and vitiligo (hypopigmentation).
What is melasma?
Melasma is a skin condition whose exact cause remains unknown. Experts consider it a chronic disease and believe that melasma patches get triggered by a variety of factors, including family history of melasma, birth control pills, pregnancy, hormone replacement therapy (HRT and progesterone), anticonvulsants, race and other factors that make the skin more prone to pigmentation. One of the leading causes of melasma is a person’s uncontrolled exposure to sunlight, particularly in individuals carrying a genetic predisposition. According to the clinical studies conducted on this pigmentary disorder, melasma often develops in the summer months. In winter months, melasma usually gets lighter or less visible.
Melasma is also known as the pregnancy mask as it often appears during pregnancy. During that time, hormonal changes in the body may cause an increase of melanin in the skin, making melasma more prominent. No matter how prominent during pregnancy, melasma may disappear a few months after giving birth but it can also reappear if you get pregnant again. Further, melasma is known to even last for several years after giving birth. The face is usually affected by this condition – mainly lips, cheeks and forehead.
How to treat melasma?
Usually, melasma is treated by careful topical application of active ingredients prescribed by a dermatologist. Often, a person with melasma is prescribed a triple combination drug that should be used every day. Regular and daily application of sunscreen (several times a day) is also advised.
What is vitiligo?
Vitiligo is a pigmentary disorder “characterized by circumscribed depigmented lesions”. It is an acquired skin disease that, judging by the latest reports, affects 1.3% of the population. Vitiligo can appear at any moment, from shortly after birth to old age. The trigger is often associated with specific circumstances like sunburns, physical injury, pregnancy, emotional injury, illness or stress. Vitiligo is a gender non-specific disease, with both sexes been affected equally. Lesions are uniformly oval, linear or round in shape and they are milky-white. They can and appear anywhere on the body and they do vary in shape. Often, vitiligo appears in the areas of repeated pressure, trauma or friction like knees, elbows, fingers and toes. Although there isn’t any solid research confirming it, genetic, environmental, immunologic and stress factors may play a significant role in vitiligo development.
How to treat vitiligo?
Vitiligo is difficult to treat, especially if a large surface of body is affected. Usually, ultraviolet (UV) light therapy is prescribed, often in combination with topical treatments.