Hyperpigmentation is a common skin condition that affects all skin types. Hyperpigmentation manifests as dark patches of skin, that become darker than surrounding areas of skin.  It can occur in small patches, large areas, or effect the whole body.

 Types of hyperpigmentation:

  • Melasma. This may be due to hormonal changes, or during pregnancy. Areas of hyperpigmentation most commonly appear on the stomach, face, and neck areas.   
  • Post-inflammatory hyperpigmentation. This is a result of injury or inflammation to the skin. A common cause of this type is acne.
  • Sunspots, also called liver spots or lentigines. They are related to excess sun exposure over time. Generally, they appear as spots on areas exposed to the sun, like the hands and face.

Other types of hyperpigmentation form after an injury or skin inflammation, such as cuts, burns, acne, or lupus. These can occur anywhere on the body. Certain medications, such as antimalarial drugs and tricyclic antidepressants, can cause hyperpigmentation. In these cases, patches of skin may turn gray.

Certain medical conditions can cause hyperpigmentation, such as Addison’s disease and hemochromatosis. Addison’s disease affects the adrenal glands. It can cause hyperpigmentation in certain areas of the body, including:

  • folds of skin
  • lips
  • elbows and knees
  • knuckles
  • toes
  • inside of the cheek

Other symptoms of Addison’s disease include:

  • fatigue and weak muscles
  • nausea
  • vomiting and diarrhea
  • weight loss
  • stomach pain
  • dizziness

 Consult a doctor ASAP if you notice any of these symptoms.

 Ways to prevent hyperpigmentation from becoming more prominent:

  • Avoid sun exposure.
  • Wear protective clothing i.e. hats with brims, sunglasses.
  • Use a sunscreen SPF 30 or higher.
  • Avoid picking at spots, scabs, or acne.

Hemochromatosis is an inherited condition that causes the body to contain too much iron. It can cause hyperpigmentation, making the skin appear darker or tanned. Below is a list of symptoms related to hemochromatosis:

  • fatigue
  • stomach pain
  • joint pain
  • weight loss

Consult a doctor ASAP if you notice any of these symptoms.

Topical creams:

Many doctors will prescribe topical treatments to treat hyperpigmentation. Topical treatments will include ingredients that lighten the skin, such as:

  • azelaic acid
  • corticosteroids
  • hydroquinone
  • kojic acid
  • retinoids, such as tretinoin
  • vitamin C

Cosmetic procedure: 

Some cosmetic procedures can also lighten areas of skin to reduce the appearance of hyperpigmentation.

 Cosmetic procedures for hyperpigmentation include:

  • laser therapy
  • intense pulsed light
  • chemical peels
  • microdermabrasion

People who are considering undergoing one of these procedures should discuss the process and possible side effects with a skin care specialist, or dermatologist. 

Bottom line:
Hyperpigmentation effects many people for many reasons of all races. If a person notices other symptoms alongside hyperpigmentation, they should seek medical advice from their doctor. If a person wants to treat hyperpigmentation for cosmetic reasons, they can seek medical advice from a dermatologist, who will be able to advise them on the best treatment methods available.