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Melasma is a condition that causes dark spots and patches on your skin. It usually happens on the face. It often occurs during pregnancy, and it usually fades after delivery. In other cases, the colour changes last for years or they may go away and come back.
Doctors do not know exactly what causes melasma. It tends to run in families. It has been linked to changes in hormone levels from pregnancy or oral contraceptives. Other possible causes include the use of some medicines or cosmetics. It tends to get worse with exposure to light and the sun. Melasma is more common in people with darker skin.
Melasma does not cause other symptoms and does not lead to other physical health problems. It does not have to be treated. Some people choose to treat it if it is having an effect on their life. Avoiding the sun and using sun protection are keys to treatment. This includes using daily sunscreen and wearing sun-protective clothing. Some people use special makeup to cover up the patches. Medicated creams to lighten the patches are often used for treatment. In some cases, pills are used to lighten the skin. Chemical peels and laser and light therapy may be used as well.
Chemical peels and laser and light therapy can irritate the skin, which can make melasma worse. If you have darker skin, make sure you see a doctor who has experience using these procedures on darker skin.
Follow-up care is a key part of your treatment and safety. Be sure to make and go to all appointments, and call your doctor or nurse advice line (811 in most provinces and territories) if you are having problems. It's also a good idea to know your test results and keep a list of the medicines you take.
Watch closely for changes in your health, and be sure to contact your doctor or nurse advice line if:
Current as of: March 22, 2023
Author: Healthwise Staff
Medical Review:Adam Husney MD - Family Medicine & Martin J. Gabica MD - Family Medicine & Ellen K. Roh MD - Dermatology
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