Skin Discoloration


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By Medicover Hospitals / 10 Mar 2021
Home | symptoms | skin-discoloration
  • Discoloration of the skin is characterized by darker or lighter markings on skin. Our skin contains melanin that is responsible for the color of our skin. However, it also means that the pigmentation of our skin can sometimes become uneven with an increase or decrease in melanin, leading to discoloration of the skin.
  • Article Context:

    1. What is Skin Discoloration?
    2. Causes
    3. Diagnosis
    4. Treatment
    5. When to visit a Doctor?
    6. Prevention
    7. FAQ's

    What is Skin Discoloration?

  • Discolored patches of skin, including birthmarks, pigmentation defects, rashes, and infections, are normal and have many causes. Some causes are innocuous, but medical treatment will be needed for others. The skin contains melanin, which is the pigment that gives skin its color. Having more melanin darkens the skin, while fewer melanin results in lighter skin. Skin and skin color are both responsible for melanin. Discolored skin patches are noticeable because they differ from a person's normal skin tone. They can be lighter, darker, or a different color, such as red, gray, or blue. People with this symptom need to understand the cause of their discolored skin patches in case treatment is necessary.
  • Causes:


  • Sunburns and other types of burns can damage your skin, and when these burns heal, there may be scar tissue that is not the color of your skin. Discolored patches of skin can also develop when sunscreen is not fully applied, leading to an uneven tan. Certain medications can also make your skin more sensitive to the sun, making it more likely to turn red.
  • Infections:

  • Various diseases can cause localized variations in skin tone. Cuts and scrapes can become infected when bacteria enter the wound, resulting in a skin infection. This leads to changes in the skin texture and causes the surrounding skin to turn red or white. Fungal infections can also cause discolored skin patches on different areas of the body, such as ringworm, tinea versicolor, and candida.
  • Hormonal Changes:

  • Hormonal changes can trigger changes in skin color, particularly during pregnancy. Due to increased levels of the female hormones estrogen and progesterone, these changes often occur. Melasma, also known as the "mask of pregnancy," is a skin condition that can develop because of these hormonal changes. It can cause dark spots to form on both sides of the face.
  • Skin Pigmentation Disorders:

  • If a person has lighter or darker patches of skin, this may signify a skin pigmentation disorder. The type of pigmentation disorder in the skin involves:
    • Melasma:

    • This is a common skin condition that usually affects and causes brown spots on the skin of the face. It affects women more often than men. Triggers for melasma can include sun exposure and hormonal changes.
    • Vitiligo:

    • This disease can affect any part of the body. It causes the cells that produce melanin, known as melanocytes, to stop working properly, resulting in patches of lighter skin. Sometimes a person's hair color will also change. The exact cause of vitiligo is unknown, but it may be responsible for an immune system problem.
    • Post-inflammatory hyperpigmentation or hypopigmentation:

    • It is a temporary increase or decrease in skin pigment after skin trauma, such as a blister or burn.
    • Albinism:

    • People with albinism do not make enough melanin. This produces little or no pigment in the skin, hair, or eyes. Albinism is a genetic disorder, which means that a person inherits a faulty gene from one or both parents.

    Skin Rashes:

  • Some types of skin rashes can also cause discolored patches of skin. These include:
    • Rosacea:

    • This is a persistent disease of the skin that can cause elevated red skin patches and pus-filled lesions.
    • Psoriasis:

    • This is a skin condition that causes scaly, crusted, silver-red patches of skin that can appear anywhere on the body. Doctors believe that psoriasis may be due to a problem with the immune system.
    • Contact dermatitis:

    • As the skin reacts to an irritant or allergen, this rash occurs.
    • Eczema:

    • Also known as atopic dermatitis, this condition can cause patches of reddened skin that are also itchy, dry, and cracked. These patches can sometimes ooze and then crust over. It is unknown what causes eczema, but it can occur in families and is more frequent in people with asthma, hay fever, and other allergies.

    Skin Cancer:

  • In rare cases, skin cancer can cause discoloration spots. Types of skin cancer include:
    • Actinic keratosis:

    • These are dry, scaly, and precancerous skin patches. Without treatment, they can progress to squamous cell carcinoma.
    • Basal cell carcinoma:

    • These are flesh-colored, pearly, pinkish patches or bumps on the skin. Carcinomas of the basal cell are the most frequent type of skin cancer.
    • Squamous cell carcinoma:

    • These are red bumps, sores, or scaly patches, which can heal and then reopen. Squamous cell carcinomas are the second form of skin cancer that is most common.
    • Melanoma:

    • This cancer may grow or occur as new dark spots in existing moles. Melanomas are the most serious form of skin cancer, and early diagnosis and prompt treatment are crucial.

    Other causes:

  • If discolored patches of skin appear suddenly and then disappear, there may be a simple explanation. Causes of temporary red skin patches or spots include:
    • Blush
    • Exercise
    • Tan
    • Dehydration
    • Nausea
    • Low blood sugar
    • Cold weather


  • To diagnose discolored patches of skin, a doctor may ask the person about:
    • Pre-existing medical conditions
    • When and how quickly the discolored skin spot appeared
    • If the discolored skin patch has changed since it first appeared
  • They may also need more tests, such as blood tests and a skin biopsy. The skin biopsy will entail the doctor taking and testing a small amount of skin under a microscope.
  • Treatment:

    • Laser Therapy: Intense pulsed light devices and Q-switching lasers are commonly used to help lighten areas of the skin that have darkened.
    • Topical creams: Topical hydroquinone or prescription retinol (vitamin A) cream can help reduce the appearance of dark spots on the skin.
    • Chemical peels: Chemical peels that contain salicylic acid and glycolic acid can be used to remove the discolored outer layer of the skin.
  • Talk to your healthcare provider about your options so that you can determine which treatment is best for you. Be sure to discuss the side effects, cost, and effectiveness of each treatment. The doctor will prescribe the right form of treatment for that condition if a person has an underlying health condition. If the underlying cause is skin cancer, the person should receive treatment as soon as possible.
  • When to visit a Doctor?

  • A consultation with your doctor can be made if:
    • You have any lasting change in your skin color
    • Notice a new mole or growth on the skin
    • An existing mole or growth has changed in size or appearance
  • Be sure to notify your healthcare provider about sunburns and other skin lesions. You should also inform your healthcare provider if you are pregnant or taking any hormonal treatment. These factors can influence changes in your skin.
  • Prevention:

    • Using sunscreen with an SPF of at least 30
    • Wear hats or clothing that blocks sunlight
    • Avoid the sun during the time of day when it is strongest, which is usually from 10 am to 4 pm
    • Avoiding certain medications can also help prevent hyperpigmentation

    Frequently Asked Questions:

  • Some of the most common causes of changes in skin color are diseases, injuries, and inflammatory problems. Discolored patches of skin also commonly develop on a certain part of the body due to a difference in melanin levels. Melanin is the substance that gives skin its color and protects it from the sun.
  • Vitiligo is a condition in which the skin loses its pigment cells (melanocytes). This can lead to discolored spots on different areas of the body, including the skin, hair, and mucous membranes.
  • Melasma is a common skin disorder. Loosely translated, the word means "black point." If you have melasma, you are probably experiencing light brown, dark brown, and/or blue-gray patches on your skin.
  • Discolored skin patches are noticeable because they differ from a person's normal skin tone. They can be lighter, darker, or a different color, such as red, gray, or blue. People with this symptom need to understand the cause of their discolored skin patches in case treatment is necessary.
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