[Extracted from www.wisegeek.com & http://health.hpathy.com]
Chloasma, also commonly referred to as melasma, is a skin condition that occurs primarily on the face. It causes dark brown discoloration, mostly in small patches across the face. The condition is not necessarily dangerous, but it can be treated for cosmetic purposes.
Estrogen and progesterone, two female sex hormones, are thought to be one of the main causes of chloasma. Changes in estrogen and progesterone hormones make a woman more likely to develop the skin condition. These hormone level changes can be a result of pregnancy, oral contraceptives, or hormone replacement therapy for women after menopause. The condition does not occur solely in women, it can affect men as well. When female hormone levels aren’t the culprit of the skin condition, it is thought that excessive skin exposure is the cause.
The main symptom of chloasma is dark brown speckles or patches across the facial skin. It tends to develop most often on the forehead, nose, cheeks, or above the upper lip. When the dark brown areas occur on the face, it is usually symmetrical and appears nearly identical on both sides of the face. The discoloration is not a health concern, but can make a person feel self-conscious about his or her appearance.
There are a variety of chloasma treatment options to reduce or eliminate the dark brown pigmentation on the facial skin. If the condition is the result of pregnancy, it will usually subside without treatment after the woman gives birth. For other mild cases of the skin condition, prescription topical creams that contain kojic acid, azelaic acid, tretinoin, or certain steroids, which may be able to lighten parts of the skin. Chemical peels, a skincare treatment performed in spas or salons that uses the application of chemicals to remove the outer skin cells, may also be used to help reduce the darkened skin patches. Lasers can also be implemented to remove dark skin pigment, but it is a serious and expensive procedure that is typically only recommended if other treatment options have not worked.
Certain measures can be taken to help prevent chloasma or keep it from worsening or reoccurring. People who know they are at risk for the condition, such as pregnant or menopausal women, women taking birth control pills, or people who live in tropical climates, can attempt to limit their sun exposure. When out in the sun, they can wear lightweight clothing, hats, and use sunscreen with a high sun protection factor.
Causes, incidence, and risk factors for Melasma/Chloasma
* Melasma is a very common . Though it can affect anyone, young women with brownish skin tones are at greatest risk. Chloasma is especially common in women aged 20-40. It is more common in dark skins than in fair skins.
* Melasma is often associated with the female hormones estrogen and progesterone. It is especially common in pregnant women, women who are taking oral contraceptives ("the pill"), and women taking hormone replacement therapy during menopause.
* Sun exposure is also a strong risk factor for melasma. It is particularly common in tropical climates.
* Melasma develops due to a combination of genetic, hormonal and sun related factors
* Melasma has been referred to as the mask of pregnancy because it often develops during pregnancy. Because of melasma’s relation to pregnancy and oral contraceptives, it is thought that estrogen contributes to its development in predisposed persons.
* Estrogen is not essential to the development of melasma, however, as men may also be affected.
* A factor that does seem to be essential to the development of melasma is sunlight.
* Both ultraviolet A (UVA) and ultraviolet B (UVB) are believed to contribute to the formation of melasma in predisposed persons.
* It may develop in association with menopause, hormonal imbalance and ovarian disorders.
* Melasma may also be triggered by a medication called Dilantin (phenytoin).
* It is thought that female sex hormones causes melanocytes or the pigment-producing cells to produce and deposit excess pigments.
* Chloasma usually affects women but occasionally is seen in young men who use after-shave lotions, scented soaps, and other toiletries.
* Chloasma is more pronounced during the summer months as a result of sun exposure. It usually fades a few months after delivery. Repeated pregnancies, however, can intensify the pigmentation.
* Chloasma also occurs as a side-effect of taking contraceptive pills and injected depot contraceptive preparations. It may also be noticed in apparently healthy, normal, non-pregnant women where it is presumed to be due to some mild and harmless hormonal imbalance.
* Sun exposure, following the use of deodorant soaps, scented toiletries, and various cosmetics can also produce this mottled pigmentation. This is called a phototoxic reaction and is due to ultraviolet radiation being absorbed by the chemical substance on the skin.
* Deficiency of Folic Acid during pregnancy can also lead to development of Melasma.