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What Is Chloasma? - Definition, Causes & Treatment

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  • 0:04 Chloasma: Defined
  • 0:35 Causes
  • 1:37 Treatment Options
  • 2:54 Lesson Summary
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Lesson Transcript
Instructor: Marisela Duque

Marisela teaches nursing courses at the college level. She also works as a unit educator, teaching experienced nurses about changes in nursing practice.

Upon completion of this lesson, you should be able to define what chloasma is, identify what causes this condition, and describe treatment options. A short quiz follows the lesson.

Chloasma: Defined

Chloasma is a skin condition that can affect 50-70% of pregnant women. Also known as melasma or 'the mask of pregnancy,' chloasma is characterized by symmetrical patches of dark skin, commonly seen on the cheeks, upper lip, forehead, and chin, that can resemble a mask pattern, almost like a raccoon. People with darker complexions who tend to tan well are more likely to develop this condition. Chloasma occurs most often during the summertime, due to increased sun exposure.

Causes

The exact cause of chloasma is a mystery. What is known is that ultraviolet (or UV) light from the sun causes melanocytes, or pigment cells, to overproduce melanin, which is what gives skin its distinct color: the more melanin present, the darker the skin color. Think of it as adding food coloring to icing; the more you add, the richer the color of the icing.

Hormone fluctuations are also partially to blame for chloasma. Moms-to-be aren't the only ones susceptible to chloasma. Women who are taking hormone replacement medication and/or contraceptives can also develop this condition, and some men do, too. In fact, approximately 1 in every 4 women and 1 in every 20 men will develop chloasma.

The good news is that chloasma generally fades away a few months after a woman gives birth or discontinues hormone medication. In some cases, repeated pregnancies can intensify chloasma. Similarly, even if you don't develop this condition with your first pregnancy, it can still occur with subsequent pregnancies.

Treatment Options

The best treatment and prevention method for chloasma is to stay out of the sun. Sunscreen may not be enough to deter this condition, so a wide-brimmed hat is also recommended. While most cases of chloasma gradually fade, some people suffer from this condition for years. There are other treatment options available, including the following:

First up is hydroquinone. This medication is typically the first treatment option offered by dermatologists. A topical medicine, hydroquinone comes as a cream, gel, or lotion that's applied to the skin to lighten the dark areas caused by chloasma.

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