The skin contains melanin, the pigment that gives color to the skin. More of the pigment means darker skin; less of it makes the skin lighter. There are certain conditions that may cause pigmentation disorders. These patches of discolored skin are easily noticeable as they often assume colors that usually differ from a person’s normal skin tone.

People with skin discoloration symptoms need to understand the causes so they can go for appropriate treatment, if necessary. Skin discoloration could be caused by birthmarks, skin pigmentation disorders, skin rashes, skin infections, skin cancers, and some medical conditions.


These are patches of skin discoloration that appear at birth or a few weeks after birth. Birthmarks such as Nevus of Ota and port wine stains can pose significant health risks. Thus, patients with them should visit a neurologist and an ophthalmologist for appropriate examination. Others like Mongolian blue spots, macular stains, and moles may not be treated as they often disappear as the child grows.

Skin pigmentation disorders

Lighter or deeper skin patches may signify a skin pigmentation disorder, which may be caused by melasma (a skin condition that causes brown patches), albinism (a genetic disorder that prevents its victims from producing enough melanin), vitiligo (a condition caused when the pigment cells are attacked by the body’s immune system), and pigmentation alteration as a result of skin damage from blisters, burns, and other skin trauma.

Skin rashes

Skin rashes, including eczema or atopic dermatitis (a condition that causes patches of dry, itchy, and red skin), contact dermatitis (a condition that occurs when the skin reacts to an allergen), rosacea, and psoriasis can cause patches of skin discoloration.

Skin infections

Skin infections, such as ringworm (a fungal skin infection that causes dry or itchy red ring-shaped patches of skin) and tinea versicolor (a fungal skin infection that makes the skin patches become lighter or darker), may also cause discoloration.

Skin cancers

Though in rare cases, skin cancers, such as actinic keratosis, basal cell carcinoma, squamous cell carcinoma, and melanoma, can also cause patches of skin discoloration. If left untreated, some of these cancers can become severe.

Medical conditions, such as cyanosis, lupus, and diabetes (if undiagnosed and untreated) can also cause skin discoloration.

UV exposure is also a type of hyperpigmentation though it is not easily noticed in the form of spots. Rather, it appears in the form of skin dullness, especially on the entire face.