Dark spots

Dark spots or hyperpigmentation is a common skin condition which often starts in middle age and is caused by several factors which include prolonged sun exposure.

It occurs due to an excess amount of melanin – a pigment found within the skin which determines its colour – which results in small dark patches or spots. These spots are darker than the rest of the skin.

Dark spots affect people of any race.

Causes of dark spots

The most likely cause is direct sunlight which is absorbed into the skin via melanin as a form of protection. But continual exposure to the sun over a long period of time results in damage such as dark spots and skin cancer.

Other causes include:

  • Medications such as oral contraceptives
  • Hormonal fluctuations, e.g. pregnancy
  • Medical conditions, e.g. Addison’s disease

Dark spots can also develop as an allergic reaction to a substance or a particular type of plant.

Symptoms of dark spots

These are patches of dark skin or small spots (known as ‘age spots) which develop on various parts of the body. They are light or dark brown in colour and may be accompanied by other symptoms if they have occurred as part of an underlying disease or disorder.

There are certain medical conditions which cause dark spots amongst other symptoms. For example, depression, joint pain, loss of appetite and fatigue.

And then there are skin conditions which exhibit a range of symptoms including dark spots. Examples of these include redness, flaking, peeling, itching and inflammation.

It is well to be aware that dark spots may be an indicator of a more serious condition. If you notice the appearance of dark spots along with any of these symptoms then seek medical advice. These symptoms include changes in blood pressure, depression, excessive thirst and urination and abdominal pain.

Diagnosing dark spots

Visit your GP if you have developed dark spots which are accompanied by other symptoms such as those mentioned above. He or she will examine you and ask you a series of questions about your general health and medical history.

You will be referred for tests depending upon the underlying cause. If, for example, your dark spots are a result of a medical condition or a reaction to something, e.g. an allergy then this will need to be investigated further.

Treatment for dark spots

This will depend upon the cause. Your dark spots may have occurred as a result of many years of lying in the sun or as a side effect of a particular medication. They may also be a sign of an undiagnosed condition or are part of another skin condition.