What is lip hyperpigmentation?

The use of oral contraceptives can cause melasma.

Lip hyperpigmentation is a disorder in which the skin cells around the mouth begin to overproduce melanin, the primary pigment in human skin. This condition can occur due to changes in the body’s hormonal balance, from inflammation around the mouth, after exposure to ultraviolet light, or due to a systemic disorder. For most people, hyperpigmentation of the lips and mouth is just a cosmetic problem, but dark lips can indicate a serious condition in some cases.

In most cases, the causes of lip hyperpigmentation are benign.

Focal hyperpigmentation occurs after a cut or burn in the mouth area or after inflammation from lupus, acne, or other conditions. Some people suffer from this type of lip hyperpigmentation after eating plants that contain furocoumarin, a compound that can make the skin more sensitive to the sun. Often, focal hyperpigmentation subsides after a few months and the skin may even return to normal.

Thyroid disorders can trigger lip hyperpigmentation.

Melasma is a type of lip hyperpigmentation that forms symmetrical, dark brown, pointy patches on the face. In addition to the lips, melasma can also appear on the temples, cheeks, and forehead. Pregnant women and people taking oral contraceptives or other hormonal treatments are more likely to suffer from this problem. Dark-skinned people develop melasma more often than fair-skinned people. Sun exposure, medications that increase sensitivity to the sun, and thyroid disorders can trigger this condition.

Laser treatments are often used to eliminate areas of hyperpigmentation on fair skin.

Elderly people often have lentigines, also known as liver spots. Lentignes occur when the body suddenly produces more melanin in an area that has been exposed to the sun. These tan to dark brown patches appear on the hands, face, and head. They can overlap the lips in some cases and are considered a risk factor for skin cancers like melanoma.

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Some systemic disorders and drugs produce hyperpigmentation on the lips and other parts of the body. For example, Laugier-Hunziker syndrome, or LHS, produces lines on the nails and dark spots on the lips. Addison’s disease, an adrenal disorder, can cause a bluish-black discoloration of the mouth, lips, nipples, and other sensitive areas. People who take antimalarial drugs, large doses of hydroquinone, tetracycline, or drugs containing heavy metals can develop dark spots on their face and mouth.

Addison’s disease, an adrenal disorder, can cause bluish-black discoloration of the mouth, lips, nipples, and other sensitive areas.

The treatment of lip hyperpigmentation depends on the type. Dermal hyperpigmentation is permanent and intractable, but excessive pigment accumulation in the epidermis can be treated with hydroquinone, bleaching agents, or chemical peels. Some patients need laser or surgical procedures to remove hyperpigmentation. When medications or a systemic imbalance cause the problem, stopping the medication or treating the imbalance can return the skin to normal.

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