Irregular or discolored areas of skin can occur for a variety of reasons ranging from minor issues to serious health conditions. Depending on the location and severity of discoloration, the condition can be disfiguring and can cause significant emotional distress.
Illnesses, inflammatory conditions, and injuries are all common causes of skin discoloration. It can also occur as a result of the underproduction or overproduction of melanin in a particular area. Melanin is a substance that protects the skin from the sun and gives the skin its color.
Different types of burns, including sunburns, can create scar tissue and discolored patches of skin. Something as simple as applying sunscreen incompletely can cause the skin to tan unevenly. Certain prescription medications can also increase the sensitivity of the skin to the sun’s rays so that it burns and becomes red much quicker.
An autoimmune disease is a condition in which the body’s immune system begins attacking healthy cells and tissue. This triggers an inflammatory response that can cause the skin to swell and become red.
Eczema, contact dermatitis, and other allergic reactions can cause the skin to become red, scaly, bumpy, and itchy. These conditions are typically an allergic response to plants, foods, or other irritants. In most cases, the condition will resolve once the patient is no longer exposed to the allergen.
Small, localized patches of skin may be due to an infection. The skin around an infected cut or scrape may become white or red. Ringworm and other fungal infections can cause small patches of discolored skin on various places on the body.
Increased levels of estrogen and progesterone, especially during pregnancy, can cause dark patches and other changes in the skin. Melasma, a common pregnancy-related skin condition, is characterized by dark patches that develop on the sides of the face.
Mongolian spots and port-wine stains are flat patches of discolored skin that typically appear at or shortly after birth. They are benign conditions, but they are sometimes treated for cosmetic reasons.
A mole is a black or brown spot on the skin that appears at birth. Moles are typically benign and not a cause for concern; however, any change in the size, color, or texture of a mole should be examined by a doctor. These changes can be a sign of skin cancer. Long-term exposure to chemicals or the sun can damage the skin’s DNA, which can lead to skin cancer.
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