Melasma refers to a type of skin discoloration that commonly affects women. When women develop melasma during pregnancy, it is known as chloasma. At the moment, it is not fully understood what causes melasma, however hormonal changes are believed to be the primary cause. Other factors, such as genetics, oral contraceptives, or nutritional deficiencies may be possible causes of melasma.
Medical conditions such as liver or endocrine dysfunction or using specific medications might also result in melasma. Any concerns or specific questions one might have about the causes of melasma on an individual level should be discussed with one’s doctor or other medical expert.
It is believed that the primary cause of melasma is due to natural hormonal changes, as well as hormonal fluctuations that can result from using oral contraceptives. This belief is held primarily because melasma seems to be a condition almost exclusively affecting women of childbearing age.
On the other hand, women who have gone through menopause and are on supplemental estrogen almost never have this condition. Due to this, it has been hypothesized that progesterone might be a major contributing factor rather than estrogen. Though many women contract melasma when pregnant, the excess pigmentation typically disappears once they have given birth.
In some cases of melasma, hereditary factors may play a major role as it seems to occur frequently in some families than others. Women who are not receiving sufficient nutritional intake in their diet may be at greater risk of contracting this skin condition as well. Keep in mind that in many cases, it is hard to pinpoint exactly what caused melasma in the affected individual.
Another factor that may be responsible for the development of melasma in patients is due to endocrine or liver dysfunction. In order to prevent any symptoms from developing, proper medical attention must be received.
Diagnostic testing such as x-rays or ultrasounds, or blood tests are just some of the methods medical staff may use to rule out other issues when melasma has been diagnosed. For the most part, the elevated skin pigmentation caused by this condition is not indicative of any serious health problems.
Using certain medication may result in melasma. For instance, it is known that drugs used to keep seizures in check can also have the side effect of increased skin pigmentation.
Lastly, direct exposure to sunlight (i.e. without sunscreen) for extended periods of time can also cause this symptom. When one is suffering from melasma due to this, it typically occurs during the summer months when the sun is out more frequently and chances of exposure are high. As such, it would be wise to have sunscreen ready when out for long periods of time.
Additional reading: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Melasma
Photo Credit: Kreuzschnabel