Dermatology Center of Northwest Houston Dermatology Center of Northwest Houston - Lisa D Hitchins MD : (281) 256-2000
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Brown Spots

Brown spots are commonly known as age spots, but are not related to the aging process. These are dark brown patches on the skin that initially appear on the face and gradually involve the other areas of the body. Although these are not generally harmful, these may impact the appearance of an individual and lead to a feeling of inferiority among peers.

The normal color of the skin is regulated by melanin, a pigment produced within the skin. An excessive secretion of the melanin results in the formation of brown spots or hyper-pigmentation. Brown spots may appear due to any of the following conditions:

  • Advancing age
  • Excessive sun exposure
  • Pregnancy
  • Hormonal imbalance
  • Adverse effects of certain medications
  • Freckles
  • Moles
  • Rashes

Based on the characteristics, location, and the underlying cause, brown spots are categorized in 3 main classes, which are as follows:

  • Melasma or chloasma: These are irregularly shaped brown spots, usually present over the cheeks, forehead, and temples which may arise secondary to a hereditary effect or hormonal changes triggered by pregnancy or menopause.
  • Age spots or liver spots: These are small dark patches commonly seen over the face, forearms and back of hands in older individuals with excessive exposure to sun.
  • Post-inflammatory hyperpigmentation: This form of hyperpigmentation may develop as a result of any injury or trauma to the skin.

The common causes of post-inflammatory hyper-pigmentation include acne, laser surgery, rashes and physical stimulation of melanin cells during leg waxing and electrolysis.

Treatment

Depending on the type of brown patches, several procedures are available for lightening the hyperpigmentation. The common treatment options for lightening the brown spots or hyperpigmentations include:

  • Laser therapy: It is the most effective treatment for patients with fairer skin. Laser beams are used to destroy the melanin producing cells, present beneath the skin, without affecting the skin surface. It helps in removing age spots, freckles and moles.
  • Cryotherapy: It involves the lightening of the brown spots through freezing with the use of a freezing agent such as liquid nitrogen. The freezing agent is clouded over the affected area that causes death of the overlying tissue and within 1-2 weeks outer layer of the skin is peeled off and replaced by unstained new layer of skin. It is commonly used for management of age spots and freckles. Cryotherapy can be painful and may cause scarring.
  • Dermabrasion: It involves the removal of outer layer of the skin by rubbing or skimming, with the help of a small rotating machine. The outer layer of skin peels off in 7-10 days; the skin heals and a fresh layer of skin replaces the discolored skin. Dermabrasion is performed under sedation or local anesthesia.
  • Chemical peel: The treatment employs chemical solutions such as glycolic acid or trichloroacetic acid to remove the outer layers of skin and improve discolorations such as age spots, freckles, and moles; within few weeks of treatment.
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