Pigmentation disorders – what is this?

The pigment in the skin, called melanin, is what gives the skin the appearance of colour. In a normalhealthy person the skin appears the colour that it should be; brown, white etc. If a person develops an illness, this may have an effect on the colour of the skin. If the skin appears darker it is called hyperpigmentation and if it appears lighter it is called hypopigmentation.

If someone is affected by a condition called Vitiligo, then the skin will begin to appear white/ligher. This is due to the loss of melanin in the skin. The condition causes the damage of the cells that form new pigment – this is widely known as melanocytes. The melanocytes are located on the outer layer of the skin called the epidermis. Vitiligo can be seen and recognised all over the world, but is more noticeable in people with darker skin.  Pigmentation disorders can be hereditary and run in the family and will see this condition develop mainly in the early years of the child, sometimes from the age of 10. Both male and female can develop this condition.

The 2 main types of skin pigmentation

Hyperpigmentary disorder – Chloasma (melasma)-– Patches on the skin of bigger pigmentation, often located on the face. It is usually the result of increased levels of melanin and melanocytes that causes this. The condition may be caused by pregnancy and changing hormone levels or from taking the contraceptive pill and also by getting sunburnt.

Chloasma is not infectious so treatment such as massage can be used on the affected person.

Hypopigmentary disorder – Vitiligo (Leucoderma) –- This condition presents itself by causing white patches to appear on the skin, causing a complete loss of colour in localised areas of the skin. The localised area has either never had pigment or have lost it. The white/lightened patches therefore are very delicate and will easily burn and very sensitive to sunlight.

Vitiligo is not infectious so treatment such as massage can be used on the affected person.

All of these pigmentation disorders can be assessed and treated by a good massage service

Other examples of skin pigmentation

Freckles (Ephelides) – Freckles present themselves as small, pigmented areas of the skin and can be found on any part of the body. Freckles often appear more on the skin after sun exposure due to the stimulation of pigment by the sun, causing the freckles to look darker in appearance

Freckles are not infectious so treatment such as massage can be used on the affected person.

Albinism – Albinism is a hereditary disorder and is a result of faulty genes. The skin and hair of the person affected, presents themselves as abnormally white in colour. The irises of the eyes are

pink. This is because there is little or no pigment being produced. People with Albinism are extremely sensitive to the sun and therefore have a greater risk of skin disease.

Erythema – Erythema is a presenting of redness to the skin, commonly known as ‘blushing’. It also can also appear on the skin including when someone is injured, allergy or infection and when the skin is being massaged.The appearance of redness is caused by the blood capillaries widening to allow more amounts of blood than normal, to reach the skin.

Naevus (birthmark) –There are many different types and sizes of birthmark and can be found anywhere on the body.

Port wine stain (nevus flammeus) – Port Wine Stains normally are found on the face, neck, scalp, arms and legs. They are on the skin because of inadequate supply of nerve fibres to a localised area of the skin. The port wine stain is a birthmark that has a large area of dilated capillaries causing the appearance of the skin to look red in colour. The blood vessels themselves are not controlled by nerves, so they keep getting bigger. Some people opt to have the port wine stain treated by having laser therapy, making them less visible.

Birth marks and Port wine stain are not infectious so treatment such as massage can be used on the affected person.

Lentigines (Liverspots) –They are similar to freckles but larger than them. These spots can also be known as ‘age spots’. TheLentiginesskin pigmentation presents themselves as an oval shape and the colouration is brown. They can be located mainly on the face and hands of the person. As noted y Gould (2012)… “Liver spots are normally caused through many years of exposure to UV rays of the sun”. (Gould. 2012, p.54)

Lentiginesare not infectious so treatment such as massage can be used on the affected person.