Wednesday, October 8, 2008

Skin Pigmentation

Pigmentation means coloring. Skin pigmentation disorders affect the color of your skin. Skin cells give your skin color by making a substance called melanin. When these cells become damaged or unhealthy, it affects melanin production. Some pigmentation disorders affect just patches of skin. Others affect your entire body.

If your body makes too much melanin, your skin gets darker. Pregnancy, Addison's disease and sun exposure all can make your skin darker. If your body makes too little melanin, your skin gets lighter. Vitiligo is a condition that causes patches of light skin. Albinism is a genetic condition affecting all of a person's skin. Infections, blisters and burns can cause lighter skin.

Other pigmented terms include:

  1. hyperpigmentation (too much pigment)
  2. hypopigmentation
  3. underpigmentation (too little pigment)
  4. depigmentation (loss of pigment).
Millions of people develop skin pigmentation conditions at some point in their lives. For many, this results in emotional distress and embarrassment. Fortunately, there are steps you can take to do something about it.
The first step in minimizing a skin pigmentation condition is to protect yourself from the sun. Then, arrange to speak with a dermatologist about your condition and treatment options.

Causes of Pigmentation

Pigmentation is more widespread amongst the middle-aged women. Very few women in younger age suffer from pigmentation, and the extent of the problem is minimal with few exceptions. This in fact is related to the endocrinal changes that occur when women reach middle age.

The severity of pigmentation problem is associated with several diseases and disorders.

The first aspect of the treatment is protection from the sun, because the problem is triggered off by sun-exposure. In fact, it can also aggravate it, causing the dark area to become larger. Therefore, as part of the treatment, one should try to avoid sun-exposure as far as possible. Physical protection is the only answer, with a parasol or hat, and also by applying a sunscreen before going out in the sun. Select a sunscreen with a high SPF of at least 20+. SPF stands for Sun Protection Factor and is usually mentioned on the label. The number is related to the duration of sun exposure. If the skin is dry, a sunblock cream should be applied. For normal to oily skin or combination skin, a sunscreen lotion is more suitable. Sunblock creams of higher SPF are also available. It is also advisable to use a sunscreen manufactured by a reputed company, so that you are sure of the protection it affords. The sunscreen should be applied about 20 minutes before sun-exposure, to allow ! it time to be absorbed by the skin. It should be reapplied if you are in the sun for longer than 20 to 30 minutes at a stretch. The effects of the sun increase near water bodies and snow, as they reflect the sun's radiation. Therefore, it becomes all the more important to protect the skin and re-apply the sun screen after 20 to 30 minutes.

Radiation Therapy

Radiation therapy is a local treatment; it affects cancer cells only in the treated area. Radiation can come from a machine (external radiation). It can also come from an implant (a small container of radioactive material) placed directly into or near the tumor (internal radiation). Some patients receive both kinds of radiation therapy.

  1. External radiation therapy is usually given on an outpatient basis in a hospital or clinic 5 days a week for a number of weeks. Patients are not radioactive during or after the treatment.
  2. For internal radiation therapy, the patient stays in the hospital for a few days. The implant may be temporary or permanent. Because the level of radiation is highest during the hospital stay, patients may not be able to have visitors or may have visitors only for a short time. Once an implant is removed, there is no radioactivity in the body. The amount of radiation in a permanent implant goes down to a safe level before the patient leaves the hospital.
resource: Medcinenet

Laser Resurfacing

Laser resurfacing is a relatively new treatment for reducing facial wrinkles and skin irregularities, such as blemishes or acne scars.

The technique directs short, concentrated pulsating beams of light at irregular skin. Laser skin resurfacing removes skin very precisely, layer by layer, resulting in fewer problems with hypopigmentation (lightening of skin). This popular procedure is known by several other names, including lasabrasion, laser peel or laser vaporization.

The two types of lasers most commonly used in laser resurfacing are:
  1. CO2 Laser Resurfacing. This method has been used for years to treat different skin conditions including wrinkles, scars, warts, birthmarks, enlarged oil glands on the nose (rhinophyma), skin cancer and other conditions. The newest version of the CO2 laser resurfacing uses very short pulsed light energy (ultrapulsed) or continuous light beams that are delivered in a scanning pattern to very precisely remove thin layers of skin with minimal heat damage to the surrounding structures. Recovery time from the procedure is up to two weeks. Patients should seek out surgeons with documented training and experience in laser skin resurfacing.
  2. Erbium Laser Resurfacing. Erbium laser resurfacing is designed to remove superficial and moderately deep lines and wrinkles on the face hands, neck, or chest. One of the benefits of erbium laser resurfacing is minimal burning of surrounding tissue. This laser causes minimal side effects, such as swelling, bruising and redness, so your recovery time should be more rapid than with CO2 laser resurfacing - one week in most cases. If you have a darker skin tone, erbium laser resurfacing may work better for you. Your doctor will determine which laser is best for you after he or she fully evaluates your medical history, current physical condition, and desired results.

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