Idiopathic Guttate Hypomelanosis
What is Idiopathic Guttate Hypomelanosis?
Idiopathic guttate hypomelanosis (IGH) is also called white age spots. It is a harmless form of local leukoderma.
By its name, IGH means the appearance of teardrop-like (guttate), white macules (hypomelanosis) of unknown cause (idiopathic). The white spots of IGH resemble freckles and they are scattered on the skin like confetti. They are round in shape, of varying sizes and are painless lesions.
IGH is mostly found in middle-aged women but it is also known to affect people of both sexes especially during their late 20s and early 30s.
The white spots of IGH are usually found on the exposed parts of the skin especially the legs, arms, face, neck and shoulder. These are also the body parts most exposed to sunlight. IGH is most evident in dark-skinned people especially following prolonged exposure to sunlight.
Appearance of Idiopathic Guttate Hypomelanosis
The spots of IGH are usually small in size and range between 1mm and 3mm. However, they can also grow as wide as 10mm. These spots can be circular or angular.
The exact causes of IGH are still unknown but based on clinical evidences, prolong exposure to sunlight is believed to be a chief cause. IGH may also be caused by other skin conditions such as seborrheic keratosis.
IGH is called age spots because the skin loses its color much like the hair does during aging.
It is the result of a gradual reduction in the population of melanocytes in the skin. IGH is benign; it is not caused by trauma nor is it a sign of skin infection. IGH does not increase the risk of skin cancer.
Treatment for Idiopathic Guttate Hypomelanosis
Since the white spots of IGH are harmless and do not spread quickly, most people prefer to leave them untreated. Even available treatment options are adapted treatments for related hypopigmentation disorders such vitiligo.
There is no guarantee that these treatments will succeed in reversing the pigment loss of IGH and in some cases they can make the hypopigmentation worse.
Below is a summary of available treatment options for IGH.
Cryotherapy: This is also called cold therapy or cryosurgery. It involves freezing the tissues of the skin at the cellular level with liquid nitrogen.
Microdermabrasion: This involves increasing the skin turnover in a bid to re-stimulate melanin production and remove the white spots along with the top layer of the skin.
Skin Grafting: This involves the surgical transplantation of normal, pigmented skin over the white spots.
Retinoid creams: These can increase the skin turnover and rejuvenate the skin too.
Topical steroids: These are immunomodulatory agents that can stop the destruction of the melanocytes by autoimmune attack from cells of the immune system.
Camouflage: Rather than seek to remove the white spots, this technique involves the masking of those spots with makeup, cover creams and self-tanning lotions.
Home Treatment: Plants that can be used for treating IGH at home include ginger, cabbage, walnut and figs