Pigment, otherwise known as melanin, determines the color of your skin, hair and eyes. The amount of melanin that you have is primarily a genetic factor. However, sun exposure and hormonal changes can also increase your body’s production of melanin. Pigment disorders occur when your body has irregular proportions of pigment either throughout the skin or in small or large areas. There are four major types of pigment disorder: albinism, vitiligo, melasma and pigment loss.
Albinism is an inherited disorder in which the skin has little to no melanin, resulting in an extreme whiteness of skin and hair. Often, albinism produces pink eyes that have poor vision. Vitiligo occurs in patches when melanin production is halted or affected. In this case, white patches occur over the body. When dark brown patches of pigment occur on the face, this is called melasma. Pigment loss generally occurs after infection, burns or blisters have damaged the skin. In this case, the skin simply does not replace the pigment in the damaged area.
Your doctor will not recommend treatment for every pigment disorder. For example, there is no cure for albinism, and in most cases, cosmetics can cover up minor pigment loss. However, prescription creams can have a lightening effect on melasma patches. Severe pigment loss may require more extreme measures, and while there is no cure for vitiligo, dyes, medications, light therapies and de-pigmentation can help. Consult with your doctor to find out which options are available for you.