Experts aren’t sure about the exact cause of melasma. But sunlight, even in small amounts, makes it worse. Thankfully, it is not considered a dangerous condition. It does, however, affect a person’s appearance by causing brown patches to appear on the skin. Sometimes it will go away if there is a preceding trigger. Other times it is a condition that must be managed over years. Here’s a look at the symptoms, diagnosis, and common treatments of melasma.
What Is Melasma?
Melasma is a common condition that typically causes brown patches to develop on the skin. It most often affects the face, where brown patches can appear on the cheeks, nose, forehead, or chin, but it can also develop in other areas of the body, including the arms and neck. While its exact cause is unknown, melasma often affects young women, particularly those who take contraceptives, receive hormone replacement therapy, are pregnant, or who are frequently exposed to the sun.
How Is It Diagnosed?
A dermatologist can usually diagnose melasma simply by looking at it. Ultraviolet light can also be used to give the doctor a better look and a more accurate diagnosis. If the brown patches caused by melasma are especially severe or look unusual, a simple biopsy may be performed to rule out more serious conditions.
Are There Treatments Available?
Luckily, in some cases, patients with melasma won’t need any special treatment for the condition. Once a patient has given birth or stops taking birth control or hormone replacement therapy, melasma often fades and eventually disappears on its own. Bleaching creams and chemicals peels can help speed resolution. For more stubborn cases, the dermatologist may suggest certain topical treatments, including hydroquinone, tretinoin, and corticosteroids, all of which act to help lighten the dark patches caused by melasma. There are also lasers that can help with the most stubborn cases. In either case, aggressive use of a physical sunscreen, ie sunscreens that contain zinc oxide and/or titanium dioxide, is crucial to helping clear up melasma.
If you suspect that you’re suffering from melasma, the doctors at The Dermatology Clinic may be able to help. Schedule an appointment with us today by filling out our online form or calling (225) 769-7546.