MelasmaA board-certified dermatologist should evaluate all symptoms and signs for an accurate diagnosis and treatment plan to be formed If you’ve noticed the appearance of dark patches on your skin, you may have a skin condition called melasma. Your New York dermatologist can diagnose your condition and recommend treatments. There’s nothing to worry about, as melasma is a common condition it’s not a serious health risk. Melasma is also called chloasma, although some refer to the condition as the “mask of pregnancy”. While it may affects women who are pregnant, it mostly affect women between the ages of 20-50 years old, who are not pregnant.
In the United States, experts estimate that six million women have melasma. Around the world, approximately 45 to 50 million women have the skin condition. Melasma may also occur on men, but according to the American Academy of Dermatology, 90 percent of cases involving melasma are women.
The Causes of MelasmaThe tan or dark skin coloration of melasma has no known cause, but it is most often linked to:
- People who experience frequent and prolonged exposure to the sun
- Pregnant women
- Women taking birth control pills
Symptoms to Expect with MelasmaIf you find odd skin discoloration, the key symptom that informs you that it’s melasma is a symmetrical appearance of brown or gray splotches. The symmetrical splotches appear evenly on both sides of your face, although they can appear on other areas of your body as well. They should be the same size and shape on both sides. These are the signs your New York dermatologist looks for when determining if your condition is melasma. It’s much less common, but the skin discoloration may also appear on your neck and forearms. More commonly, it appears on these areas of your face:
- On your forehead
- On both cheeks
- Between your upper lip and your nose
- On the bridge of your nose
- On your chin
Diagnosing MelasmaIf you discover facial discoloration, visit your dermatologist in Manhattan. During your appointment, your dermatologist with examine your skin and ask you about your general medical history, including a family history, to rule out other skin issues. If you’re a woman, among the questions are those regarding the possibility that you’re pregnant or whether you’ve experienced a spike in hormonal activity. Both of these are triggers for melasma. Sometimes, to correctly diagnose your condition, a dermatology doctor in NYC may use a Wood’s light. It’s a lamp that produces ultraviolet (UV) radiation to shine on your skin. It more easily shows the melasma and the depth of the condition. It’s rare, but in some cases, the dermatologist performs a biopsy taking a tissue sample to rule out more serious issues. Your NY dermatologist may also inquire about the following factors, as they can put you at greater risk for developing melasma:
- Your ethnicity: People with darker skin such as Eastern Indian, Middle Eastern, African, African American and Hispanic are more prone to develop melasma. Even those with olive-colored skin, such as people of Mediterranean descent, can also get melasma more often than Caucasians.
- Hormone replacement therapy: If you’ve taken any type of medications or therapy that affects your hormone levels, it may trigger an instance of melasma.
- Birth control pills: If you’re taking birth control pills, you should know that these can cause a hormone spike, which is often a trigger for melasma.
- Sun and heat exposure: Being in direct sunlight or heat for extended periods of time exposes you to dangerous UV light that causes melanocytes to produce more pigment. While it’s common knowledge that UV light causes your skin to darken, you may not know that even a slight amount of sunlight or heat can cause melasma to return after it has faded.
- Specific medications: Certain drugs, such as anti-seizure prescriptions, can make your skin more sensitive to darkening after you’ve been exposed to sunlight. Ask your New York dermatologist if any of the medications you’re currently taking put you at risk for melasma.
How to Treat MelasmaOur doctors are best-in-class board certified physicians. Please call for an appointment. At first, your dermatologist may prescribe a topical melasma treatment containing hydroquinone, corticosteroids, acids, retinoids or a combination the ingredients above. These creams help lighten your skin back to normal. Typically, you apply these creams to the discolored patches of skin once or twice per day. Sunscreen can be applied over lightening cream each morning. Of the four types of melasma, the epidermal type responds best to topical treatment because the pigment in epidermal melasma is near the top layer of the skin’s surface. For more recalcitrant or dermal melasma a variety of procedure can performed to help break up and eliminate the pigmentation such chemical peels, microdermabrasion or laser therapy.
Prevention of MelasmaThe best way to avoid developing melasma is to limit your time in direct sunlight. If you can’t avoid being in the sun for extended times, make sure you follow these preventative suggestions:
- Use a potent sun block, such as one with titanium dioxide or zinc oxide
- Throw shade on your melasma with a wide-brimmed hat
- Avoid exposure to heat ie. stove, fireplace
Important Reminder: This information is only intended to provide guidance, not a definitive medical advice. Please consult dermatologist NYC about your specific condition. Only a trained, experienced board certified dermatology doctor or pediatric dermatologist can determine an accurate diagnosis and proper treatment.
Do you have any questions about Melasma? Would like to schedule an appointment with an internationally recognized, top dermatologist in NYC, Dr. Susan Bard of Manhattan Dermatology? Please contact our Midtown or Upper East Side NYC clinic for consultation with Manhattan cosmetic and laser dermatologist.
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