Skin disorders run the gamut from birthmarks and moles to severe pigmentation problems. Discoloration can be caused by age, which can result in liver spots, which have nothing to do with the liver, to vitiligo. The color of our skin is determined by the amount of blood that is flowing through it in addition to the amount of pigment. Naturally, people have different pigments: Some are dark, some are fair. When a person is healthy and has oxygen-saturated blood, the blood is bright red. However, when blood is oxygen-deprived, it turns dark bluish-red. This can give your skin a blue cast. There are numerous factors that can cause skin discoloration.
Many of us are born with birthmarks, which isn’t necessarily a problem unless they are very big, very distinct in color and placed in a conspicuous place such on the face. The marks come in various sizes and shapes and are evident at birth or soon thereafter. Why birthmarks develop isn’t completely understood, but it is believed that it is somehow connected to blood vessel deformities that occur as early as the embryo’s first month of development. Sometimes, birthmarks will fade away on their own; however, there are those that don’t. These can be treated with laser treatment, including Q-Switch Ruby and Flash Pump Dye, which can usually obliterate the birthmarks or at least reduce the size.
If you are pregnant or taking oral contraceptives, there is a chance that you might develop a skin condition called melasma. Hormones increase the body’s pigment (melanin) production. The increased pigment lands in various parts of the body but mostly on the face or chest. This commonly occurs when women are in the second half of their pregnancy. Melasma is also known as chloasma or mask of pregnancy. If you are dark-skinned, you are more likely than a fair-skinned woman to develop this while pregnant. This condition should fade away after you have given birth or when you stop taking oral contraceptives. If you have this condition and go out into the sun, the sun can exacerbate melasma and result in a stained effect on your skin. If melasma spots don’t go away on their own, you should consider using topical treatments recommended by your doctor or getting a light glycolic acid peel. Laser treatment can be used if the melasma spots are resistant.
The most highly touted case of vitiligo was that of Michael Jackson. The condition results in loss of skin pigment, which turns dark skin to light skin. This is an unusual condition; only one percent of the population has it. If you have other conditions such as pernicious anemia, alopecia areata, adrenal gland problems or thyroid disorders, this may put you at higher risk for acquiring vitiligo. Vitiligo is thought to be prompted by nerve cells that are abnormal. These defective cells prevent the body from properly producing pigment. It is also believed that vitiligo may be the result of an auto-toxic reaction or an autoimmune reaction during which the pigments cells are attacked.
Hyperpigmentation, which would be the opposite of vitiligo, happens when the skin cells are producing too much pigment, which can turn the skin dark or result in café-au-lait (brown) spots or even bronze-colored skin. Hyperpigmentation can be an indication that you are suffering from scleroderma or Addison’s disease. Skin darkening can also be caused sun exposure. Our skin turns darker when we're out in the sun because that is the skin's way of protecting itself by producing more melanin (pigment).
Sometimes a person will develop dilated veins that look like delicate red traces that occur on their legs and cheeks. These are thread veins and are experienced more often by woman than men. Anything that increases pressure in the veins can cause thread veins to develop.
Blue skin is cyanotic skin, which means that there is a lack of oxygen in the blood supply. Anything that inhibits circulation or oxygen can cause cyanosis, which is a serious condition and needs medical treatment.
If the skin or the whites of your eyes are yellow, this can indicate that you are jaundiced and have a liver disease. When skin turns yellow, this is the result of bilirubin, which is a byproduct of old blood cells.