Skip to content

What Abnormal Skin Pigmentation Mean

One of the most observable aspects of human variability is the difference in skin color. Skin pigmentation is primarily a result of functioning melanocytes, keratinocytes, extracellular matrix proteins, and fibroblasts. Desert West Vein & Surgery Center offers professional diagnosis and treatment of skin discoloration in El Paso, preventing future health complications.

Melanocytes are skin cells that synthesize and distribute melanin pigment. A single melanocyte is connected to about 30-40 keratinocytes and fibroblasts through dendrites. The combination of a melanocyte and its keratinocytes makes up the epidermal melanin unit.

The Process of Melanin Formation

Melanin synthesis usually takes place in melanosomes. The process of melanin formation begins with adrenocorticotropic hormone and melanocyte-stimulating hormone binding to form melanocortin receptors. MCR-1 binds with melanocyte-stimulating hormone triggering the melanin formation in melanosomes. Mutation can lead to altered MCR-1 structure, which causes the formation of pheomelanin.

Variations in skin pigmentation depend on genetic heterogeneity as well as levels and location of melanocytes.

Types of Skin Pigmentation Disorders

Clinical presentation of abnormal skin pigmentation can be hyper-, hypo- or depigmentation.

Examples of skin pigmentation disorders include:


Vitiligo is a chronic condition that occurs due to various environmental factors like puberty, pregnancy, unhealthy diet, stress, and skin trauma, causing melanocyte destruction. This condition leads to the formation of lesions/white patches on the skin and can be a symptom of an underlying autoimmune disease.

  1.     Vogt-Koyanagi-Harada Syndrome (VKHS):

VKHS is a rare symptom of an underlying autoimmune disease. This disorder affects melanin tissues and mostly occurs among people with darker skin pigmentation. VKHS can manifest in the central nervous system, eye, inner ear, skin, and meninges.

Idiopathic Guttate Hypomelanosis (IGH)

IGH is a condition present as white spots in the skin due to decreased melanin in the skin. This condition is common in fair-skinned individuals and is caused by age and cumulative sun exposure. Women tend to expose their legs more than men; therefore, IGH is more prevalent in women.


Albinism is a rare genetic disorder characterized by little or no production of melanin. Albinism is caused by an inherited deficiency of the enzyme tyrosinase affecting the production and distribution of melanin. Individuals with albinism are prone to developing skin cancers and require regular skin assessment for early diagnosis and treatment.

Pityriasis Alba (PA)

PA is a condition resulting from genetic disorders or healed dermatitis that leave behind lighter skin patches. This condition is common in children.  Pityriasis alba presents as scaly patches on the skin. The patches can be itchy and usually progress from pink and fade to white.


Melasma is a skin condition that leads to the formation of dark, discolored patches on facial skin. When melasma occurs in pregnant women, it is referred to as the mask of pregnancy.

Post-inflammatory Hyperpigmentation

Post-inflammatory hyperpigmentation is a skin discoloration that occurs following an inflammatory wound. As wounds on the skin heal, excess melanin is produced, discoloring the skin. An example of post-inflammatory hyperpigmentation is the dark marks that remain after pimples heal. The spots usually vary in color and are more severe in individuals with darker skin.

Erythema Dyschromicum Perstans (EDP)

EDP is a rare condition that manifests as ashy-gray lesions on the skin. The lesions may be itchy for some patients. EDP can be a symptom of certain diseases such as HIV or Whipworm infection.

Enhanced dermatological knowledge and experience are required for effective diagnosis and treatment of skin discoloration disorders. Contact Desert West Vein & Surgery Center to learn more about abnormal skin discoloration treatments available.