Post-inflammatory hyperpigmentation is a skin disorder characterized by the development of darker patches of skin following inflammation. Here are four things you need to know about this disorder.

What are the signs of post-inflammatory hyperpigmentation?

If you develop post-inflammatory hyperpigmentation, you'll notice dark patches on your skin. These patches occur in areas that were previously affected by inflammation. These darker patches can be tan, brown, dark brown, or even blue-grey, depending on your skin color and the extent of the hyperpigmentation.

After exposure to the sun or to recurrent inflammation, you may notice that the patches become darker and more noticeable.

How does inflammation cause it?

When your skin becomes inflamed, two different processes can occur which lead to post-inflammatory hyperpigmentation. First, the skin can release arachidonic acid. Arachidonic acid is a polyunsaturated fatty acid that is involved with cellular signalling. This acid stimulates your melanocytes, the cells within your skin that produce melanin. Melanin, as you probably know, is the pigment responsible for giving your skin its color. When more melanin is produced, the affected areas of your skin become darker.

Second, inflammation of the skin can disrupt one of the deeper layers of your skin. This disruption causes your melanin to be released and then trapped by the cells in the upper layers of your skin. This phenomenon, known as pigmentary incontinence, means that your pigments have leaked into the upper layers of your skin where they are more visible.

What injuries can be responsible?

A wide variety of injuries can be responsible for post-inflammatory hyperpigmentation. Minor skin injuries like insect bites, shaving rash, or acne can lead to this condition, as can more serious injuries like burns or surgeries. Other skin conditions can also provide the inflammation necessary to cause this condition, such as psoriasis, contact dermatitis, or lichen planus.

How is post-inflammatory hyperpigmentation treated?

To avoid making your hyperpigmentation worse, a dermatologist, like those at Advanced Dermatology Care, will advise you to stay out of the sun. When you go outdoors, wear protective clothing and sunscreen to avoid darkening your patches. Sources of inflammation, like other skin conditions, will also need to be dealt with so that the condition doesn't continue to worsen.

Once your dermatologist is sure that your condition is no longer worsening, treatments to lighten your hyperpigmented skin can begin. Depigmenting agents like hydroquinone or azelaic acid can be applied to your dark patches to lighten them. Laser therapy can also be used to lighten your dark patches.

If you think you have post-inflammatory hyperpigmentation, see a dermatologist right away.