Skin discoloration represents change in the skin color that can be caused by different reasons such as underlying medical problems or adverse effects of certain drugs.
The skin consists of three layers. The outer layer, known as epidermis contains cells called melanocytes that produce a pigment melanin. This pigment together with the blood flow determines the color of the skin. Medical problems that alter melanocytes lead to skin discoloration.
Types of Skin Discoloration
There are various types of skin discoloration that differ in color of the skin developed.
Common types of skin discoloration include:
This type of skin discoloration is caused by decreased level or lack of pigment melanin. Hypopigmentation is characterized by lighter color comparing to normal color of the skin. There are three types of hypopigmentation: vitiligo, albinism and pigmentation loss due to skin damage or injury.
Hyperpigmentation occurs due to increase in melanin production. People with the condition have darker skin color. The main cause of hyperpigmentation is exposure to sunlight (melasma) but it can be also caused by use of certain medications like antibiotics, antiarrhythmics and antimalaria drugs.
This type of skin discoloration results from reduced amount of oxyhemoglobin in the skin. There are different types of paleness such as general paleness that refers to entire body affected and paleness in specific areas of the body like white fingers and white patches.
Skin redness is a type of skin discoloration that can be generalized or localized. Reddening of the skin most often results from inflamed, irritated or sore skin. It can occur due to fever, rash, sunburn, dermatitis, flushing, viral infection, and eczema.
Jaundice or yellowing of the skin is the most common cause of this type of skin discoloration. Yellow skin can often indicate severe liver problem that needs to be immediately diagnosed and treated. Jaundice can also affect the eyes and fingernails.
This type of discoloration of the skin is equally severe as a yellowish pigmentation of the skin. It is most often seen in babies that start eating solid diet. Orange skin discoloration is generally caused by excessive beta carotene in the diet (carotenemia).
Cyanosis is abnormal blue discoloration of the skin. It is caused by insufficient oxygen in the blood. This skin discoloration can also result from abnormal hemoglobin or presence of toxins like cyanide in blood.
Causes of Skin Discoloration
Skin discoloration can be caused by disease. In fact discoloration of the skin often indicates certain disease. Yellow skin is commonly caused by liver disease, paleness results from anemia, albinism leads to hypopigmentation and blue skin is caused by cyanotic heart disease. Use of certain medications can also lead to skin discoloration. Change in the skin color may develop in pregnancy or due to increased intake of foods rich in psolarens like parsley and lime. Finally, skin discoloration can result from extreme climatic conditions, aging and heredity.