Idiopathic Guttate Hypomelanosis & Skin Pigmentation

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Idiopathic guttate hypomelanosis (IGH) is a condition which you can develop as you get older. It causes a loss in skin pigmentation which is usually found in specific places, rather than all over the body.

What does IGH look like?

At the start of developing IGH the lighter pigmentation usually develops on the legs. It will also often develop on other areas which are frequently exposed to the sun such as the arms and eventually the face.

What causes IGH?

The cause of IGH is currently unknown. It is thought that sun exposure causes pigment containing cells (melanocytes) to stop working properly. In a previous study it was found that the areas of skin affected by IGH have around half as many melanocytes than the normal skin.

The areas of light pigmentation are usually about 1-3mm wide but can sometimes be as large as 10mm.

Who gets IGH?

IGH is most commonly seen in women with light skin. In these women it is often seen at middle age. However, it is also seen in men as well as darker skinner people. This is most often the case in those who are older and have a history of repeated sun exposure.

IGH is seen in almost all elderly people with light skin. The condition is therefore the most common in countries with a light skinned population and where there is a lot of exposure to the sun.

Is IGH dangerous?

No, IGH is not problematic and is merely a cosmetic problem.

How is IGH treated?

The best way to deal with IGH is to avoid direct sunlight and to cover affected areas with cosmetics. There are however some drug treatments available. Corticosteroids and retinoids, e.g. tretinoin, are usually used for treating IGH. These can both be applied directly to the skin.

There are also a number of surgical options for treating IGH. This includes using cryosurgery to remove the damaged melanocytes, as well as dermabrasion. These treatments have had varied results.

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