Manhattan Dermatology Specialists
  • MIDTOWN 56 W 45TH ST, STE 819 New York, NY 10036
  • UPPER EAST SIDE 983 PARK AVE, STE 1D1 New York, NY 10028
  • UNION SQUARE 55 W. 17TH ST STE 103 New York, NY 10011

Skin Discoloration

Skin Discoloration

Routine annual exams, including a thorough physical, can detect potential health problems and deal with them before they develop further or worsen.When your skin changes color, either darker or lighter, or to some other shade of pink, blue, or red, it’s not necessarily a sign of a medical condition that you need to get treated. Patchy skin discoloration, on the other hand, can signal other, more serious problems. The best way to ensure that you’re taking appropriate steps when you see skin color changes is to make an appointment with your Manhattan dermatologists for a diagnosis.

Your skin cells contain melanocytes, which in turn produce melanin, the substance that determines your skin color. When you have too much melanin in your skin cells, you are said to have hyperpigmented skin. Too little melanin produces hypopigmented skin. When you have pale skin patches, your cells are not producing sufficient melanin, and your melanocytes are overactive. Underactive melanocytes produce darker patches.

Another common discoloration is called bronze, and this isn’t the kind of bronzing you get from tanning. Instead, the slight darkening of your skin starts in places like your elbows, knees, or knuckles and spreads. Bronzing also can happen on the palms of your hands or heels of your feet, and it can vary in darkness levels.

Hypopigmentation and Hyperpigmentation

Hypopigmentation often is caused by:

  • Inflammation
  • Vitiligo, a disease associated with auto-immune conditions such as diabetes, thyroid disease, and pernicious anemia
  • Various fungal infections
  • Certain medications

Hyperpigmentation, on the other hand, usually is caused by:

  • An overload of iron in your system
  • Exposure to ultraviolet sun rays or UV exposure in tanning booths
  • Endocrine diseases such as Addison’s disease
  • Pregnancy

Underlying Causes

Several conditions involve your skin and show up as distinct skin discoloration. It takes a professional like your NYC dermatologist to verify the underlying cause of the changes in your skin color. Still, a few examples of the injuries or diseases that lead to variations in your pigmentation can include:

  • Fungal infections may lead to either lighter or darker patches on your skin. For example, ringworm may lead to dark lesions, while tinea versicolor, created by microscopic bacteria, may result in lighter patches.
  • Burns most decidedly change the color of your skin. If you’ve ever had a sunburn, you know that your skin can turn a variety of colors, from red to white, when it blisters. When your skin heals from burns, it very often never returns to its original color.
  • Applying sunscreen haphazardly also can lead to varying shades of skin color. Also, various kinds of medications react adversely when you go out in the sun and lead to reactions that show up as skin discoloration.
  • Pregnancy can cause skin discoloration because of the hormonal changes you’re undergoing. A skin discoloration condition called melasma, colloquially known as the mask of pregnancy, happens when dark splotches appear on your face when you’re pregnant.
  • Birthmarks are apparent on newborns and may present as port-wine stains, moles or Mongolian spots, bluish patches on the backs of primarily Asian babies.
  • Skin cancer changes the color of your skin, depending on the type and location of cancer. The lesions and the treatment alike can leave lasting skin discoloration changes.

When to See Your New York Dermatologist

It’s never too early to check in with your NYC dermatologist. Early detection is the best deterrent to skin cancer and other serious and long-lasting conditions that carry with them even greater dangers than just discoloration. Even if you’re just concerned about appearances, don’t wait to get advice early from a medical skin doctor. Definitely see your dermatologist when you experience certain symptoms, such as:

  • When the skin discoloration looks like a new mole
  • As you see changes happening in a mole, you currently have
  • When the skin discoloration doesn’t fade or reverse over time

Your NYC dermatologist diagnoses many skin discoloration issues just with a visual inspection and a medical history. Be prepared to explain:

  • When the skin discoloration first appeared
  • Whether it happened slowly over time or came on suddenly
  • If the color changes are staying consistent or continuing to change
  • About other symptoms you may be having, even if you don’t think they’re related
  • Whether you’re pregnant
  • If you’re taking any medications, and if so, what kind
  • About injuries, you sustained recently

Diagnosis and Treatment

After a skin inspection and taking your medical history, your New York-based dermatologist may take a few other tests to confirm a diagnosis, such as:

  • A biopsy requires that your skin doctor scrape off a piece of the discolored skin to send it to a lab for testing.
  • Blood tests can confirm or negate other underlying conditions, such as iron build-up or high levels of hormones.
  • A Wood’s lamp exam can help your doctor determine whether you have a fungal infection that’s causing the discoloration. A Wood’s lamp is a hand-held device that causes pigmentation to turn a different shade under the special light if it’s infected.

The type of treatment you receive depends on the final diagnosis. Often clearing up the cause of the discoloration eventually leads to clearer skin tones. Treating the cause also helps to ensure the discoloration won’t return. A few options your dermatologist may offer include:

  • Laser therapy that can lighten dark pigments
  • Chemical peels to remove the top layer of skin, encouraging new, properly colored skin growth
  • Prescription creams that contain hydroquinone or strong Vitamin A derivatives in retinoids
★ ★ ★ ★ ★Susan Bard is a rock star. Fast, efficient, knowledgeable, and a Sympatico vision of an approach to medicine — at least in the narrow scope of what we discussed.

Side Effects

Skin discoloration is a side effect of a slew of skin conditions that will dissipate without further interference when properly treated by your best dermatologist in NYC. Common skin conditions that your dermatologist has experience treating include:

Important Reminder: This information is only intended to provide guidance, not 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.

Updated on Mar 7, 2023 by Dr. Susan Bard (Dermatologist), Manhattan Dermatology Specialists Locations: Manhattan Dermatology (Upper East Side) 983 Park Ave, Ste 1D1, NY 10028
(212) 427-8750
Manhattan Dermatology (Midtown) 56 W 45th St, Ste 819, NY 10036
(212) 889-2402
Manhattan Dermatology (Union Square) 55 W 17th St, Ste 103, NY 10011
(212) 378-9984
DISCLAIMER: PLEASE READ CAREFULLY The information on this website is to provide general information. The information on this website does NOT reflect definitive medical advice and self diagnoses should not be made based on information obtained online. It is important to consult a physician for a consultation and examination regarding ANY and ALL symptoms or signs you may be having. An accurate diagnosis and treatment plan should only be made by your physician in order to exclude a serious condition.
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