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Study Shines a (Black) Light on Melasma Detection

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Use of a black light can help to diagnose the extent of melasma, according to recent research that found that the hyperpigmentation present in melasma is more visible under these lights. The findings of the study, published in the Journal of the American Academy of Dermatology, allow physicians to diagnose the condition earlier.

Black light, also called Wood’s light, picks up changes in color that allow pigment discoloration and disorders to shine brighter than the surrounding skin. Since the potentially gray and brown patches of melasma can be difficult to see under natural light, the enhanced views under a black light can aid in early detection so that the condition does not go unnoticed and progress.

“Without the use of black light, the extent of the disease could go unnoticed and worsen over time with ultraviolet ray exposure of laser therapy. Treatment for melasma needs to be maintained, otherwise there is risk of the condition returning,” said Neelam Vashi, M.D., one of the study’s authors, stressing the importance of early detection of melasma before the condition worsens.

Moving Forward

Researchers conducted clinical examinations on 35 adults with and without the use of black light. The team qualified findings via the modified Melasma Area and Severity Index. While the use of black light in melasma diagnosis has been suggested in the past, this was the first research that set out to find a significant difference between detection under natural and black light.

Once the extent of the condition is diagnosed, physicians should speak with melasma patients on sun protection and how to proceed with treatment, including topical creams, microdermabrasion and chemical peels.

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