X

Dark Patches: Signs and Symptoms, Causes, Treatment and Diagnosis

Editor's Note: This article has been recently updated with latest information and research studies.

What are Dark Patches?

Dark patches refer to the presence of several dark spots spread out over a specific point of the skin than the surrounding area. The notable change in color is an indication that skin cells around that patch are producing* more melanin than it is required. Regardless of your skin color or race you can suffer from dark patches. The presence of dark patches can be a reflection of a serious skin condition. It is therefore recommendable to seek medical assistance if you are not sure about their cause.

What are Signs and Symptoms of Dark Patches?

Common signs and symptoms of dark patches are:

  • Uneven areas where there are differences in skin color
  • Birthmarks that are present at birth or develop later after birth
  • Raised or sunken dark areas on the skin
  • May begin as a single dark spot and then start spreading

What are The Causes of Dark Patches?

  • Hormonal Changes: Health experts argue that changes in hormonal levels can trigger excessive production of melanin that determines color pigmentation in an individual. This is more apparent in women where hormonal changes coupled with exposure to sunlight leads to formation of dark spots or patches on their face. Additionally, hormonal changes can alter the functions of some organs which in turn affect the performance of melanocytes role in melanin production.
  • Post-Inflammatory Marks: Inflammations on the skin can lead to dark spots or patches especially after acne infections. These scars gradually fade away without any treatment but dermatologists recommend the use of sunscreen with an SPF of more than 30 to shield it from worsening or affecting the rest of the skin. Scratching when you have a pimple only gives the inflammation a chance to spread thereby affecting a larger area. Inflammations can also occur following an injury to the skin through cuts, burns*, or wounds.
  • Melasma and Chloasma: Melasma is a condition that most women experience dark or brownish patches during pregnancy. These patches appear on the face upper cheek, upper lip, chin, or forehead. Typically, 75% of women will suffer from melasma during their reproductive cycle. Health experts link this condition to hormonal changes during pregnancy or use of contraceptive pills and exposure to sunlight.
  • Photosensitivity: Certain drugs and diseases accounts for some dark patches you might suffer once your skin becomes exposed to sunlight. They make your skin more sensitive and the sunlight triggers auto immune reactions. Dark spots can appear in different ways such as dark patches, freckles, brown patches, or moles. Some patches can cause inflammations, itchiness, or redness. There is need to consult a health expert if you notice a new or a changing dark, blue, or brownish spot due to photosensitivity.
  • Chemicals in Medications: There are a number of medications that can cause dark patches on your skin without necessarily having to get exposed to sunlight. These include chlorpromazine, chloroquine, and arsenic. You can also get dark patches following exposure to tetracycline, anti-malarial drugs, bleomycin, 5-flourouracil, or busulfan. Hormones that can cause dark patches include estrogen and progesterone.
  • Pigmentation of Skin: A certain area of your skin can develop dark patches without involvement of external factors. Melanocytes can become hyperactive and cause overproduction of melanin on a specific region on your skin. In such cases, health experts believe that genes are to blame since there is a tendency of such cases running in some families.
  • Sun Exposure: According to health experts, sun is the main cause of hyperpigmentation including the appearance of dark patches. Prolonged exposure to the sun triggers production of melanin in an effort to shield your body against the harmful rays of the sun. These dark patches can at times become permanent unless you seek medical intervention. The best remedy to avoid sun induced dark patches is to avoid direct sunlight or regularly make use of a sunscreen with an SPF of more than 30.
  • Age Spots and Liver Spots: These consist of flat grayish or dark spots and mostly appear on skin areas that are directly exposed to the sun. They come in different sizes and shapes and can affect both the young and the old. You will find them on your arms, face, shoulders, or arms. Age spots and liver spots are of no health concern on medical grounds although they may appear like cancerous growth. For cosmetic purposes, you can get rid of liver or age spots through the use of skin brightening creams. To avoid suffering from age or liver spots, avoid direct sunlight especially between mid-morning and late afternoon or use sunscreen.

Treatment of Dark Patches on Face

  • Apply Castor Oil: It has a tough healing* ability and is an effective method for getting rid of dark patches and spots. You should apply it at least twice a day, once in the morning and once at night. Soothingly massage on the affected areas using a cotton cloth for a few minutes. If you continually repeat this process, you will start observing dramatic disappearance of the dark patches within a few months.
  • Onion and Vinegar: Make a mixture of onion juice and vinegar and apply to the affected area twice every day. The acidic reaction between onion and vinegar will gradually bleach out the dark patches.
  • Lemon: Lemon juice has a bleaching ability that will eliminate* the dark patches and tone the affected area with the rest of your skin. Apply the juice directly to the affected area and give it about 30 minutes before wiping off. Do this at least twice a day for a minimum of 2 months for notable improvements. If your skin is very sensitive to lemon juice, dilute it with water or honey and apply directly. Else, you can add some sugar in lemon juice and apply the content on the dark patched area.
  • Melanin: Melanin is the compound that determines your skin color and reduction* in its production results to brown or light patches. Hydroquinone works by inhibiting the production of the enzyme tyrosinase which shuts down the secretion of melanin. This chemical bleaches brown spots giving you an even skin color tone.

Dark Patches Diagnosis

For dark patches, your doctor will look at its appearance or do a biopsy to remove* a part of the affected skin for evaluation under a microscope. You may be required to answer a number of questions such as the history of the patch, whether you experience itchiness, family history, whether you are under any medications, etc. some physicians may use a wood’s lamp or black light test to assess your skin condition.

Conclusion of The Article

Dark patches on the skin are caused mainly by sunlight and lack of proper care for your skin. Unless your physician indicates otherwise, they are harmless as long as you identify their cause. However, for cosmetic reasons, there are several home remedies for treating dark patches although the effects might take longer than necessary. You can easily explore skin brightening creams and ointments that contain ingredients necessary for eliminating dark patches. Always be keen to identify the emergence of unusual skin pigmentations and take action to avert major complications.