Pigmentation changes in your skin are often not physically harmful. However, they can have a devastating effect on your self-esteem and social life, especially when the discoloration occurs on your face, head, or neck. If you have unsightly hyperpigmentation that is blue or gray, it may be nevus of Ota and you should consider undergoing some type of hyperpigmented lesion procedure, such as laser treatment.
At world-acclaimed Cosmetic Laser Dermatology, located near sunny downtown San Diego, we specialize in a multitude of cosmetic skin conditions, including nevus of Ota and other types of pigmentation changes.
What is Nevus of Ota?
A nevus (plural nevi) is a small, mole-like malformation of your skin that can occur anywhere on your body. Nevi that contain melanocytes, the pigment cells that make melanin, are known as melanocytic nevi. When these nevi are colored grayish-blue to slate brown and are located on your head or neck, particularly in the white of your eye, this is Nevus of Ota.
It is not known what causes this benign condition, but because the hyperpigmentation occurs on your face or head, it often causes cosmetic concerns. Furthermore, approximately four in 100 patients with it are at a slightly higher risk of getting intraocular melanoma, so if you have nevus of Ota, you should periodically see an ocular cancer specialist.
Learn more about hyperpigmentation treatment at WebMD.com.
Dermatologic Treatment Options
Since the condition is not serious, many people decide not to undergo treatment. However, because of the cosmetic concerns that nevus of Ota often causes, there are several types of hyperpigmentation treatment that are beneficial and effective – cosmetic camouflage, laser treatment, and intense pulsed light (IPL) treatment.
Cosmetic camouflage has been around since World War II when plastic surgeons used it to treat massive burns on soldiers and pilots. These days, however, doctors use a combination of creams, liquids, and powders to cover discoloration or reshape facial or body irregularities. These include birthmarks, tattoos, scars, rosacea, burns, and more.
Camouflage makeup has three purposes:
- Conceal – This effectively covers scars, bruises, or discoloration on your face or body
- Correct Color – This disguises various shades of a bruise or burn
- Contour – This corrects irregular facial surface contours
Laser (QS Ruby Laser or 1064nm Q-Switched Nd:YAG)
Laser treatment does more than simply cover up the discoloration; it actually destroys the melanocytes responsible for the pigmentation. It’s usually more effective in treating light-skinned patients than dark-skinned ones.
High-energy laser systems are effective in lightening or even erasing different pigmented lesions, including freckles and birthmarks. They zap the lesions, targeting their intense energy on the melanosomes, minute pigment-carrying particles within the pigment cells. Pigment located just under the skin responds better to shorter wavelengths while pigment found deeper needs longer wavelengths that can penetrate your tissue deeper. Furthermore, laser treatment is so precise that it can shatter pigment without damaging surrounding tissue.
If you undergo these laser treatments, the following side effects are common (and usually temporary):
- Some discomfort or soreness
- Redness or blistering
You can also expect to see some temporary darkening or lightening of the skin in treated areas before skin tone evens out. It is possible for the pigment to recur following laser hyperpigementation treatment in some rare cases.
Intense Pulsed Laser
Intense pulsed light (IPL) is a non-invasive, non-ablative treatment that shoots pulses of high-intensity light into your skin to shatter the pigment cells, which improves the appearance of the nevus of Ota condition.
IPL treatment is precise enough to focus on the targeted area without causing harm to surrounding tissue. IPL therapy also delivers multiple wavelengths in each pulse instead of one wavelength. As a non-ablative laser skin resurfacing treatment, IPL therapy targets the deeper layers of your skin without impacting the top layers, resulting in more gradual, natural looking improvement.
For many of our patients, a crucial benefit of IPL laser treatment is the minimal downtime, as you can schedule to undergo this 30-minute procedure on your lunch hour before returning to your normal daily activities immediately following treatment.
IPL treatments are very tolerable, with most patients describing the sensation as that of a rubber band snapping against the skin. Our doctors minimize even this discomfort through using contact cooling gel to keep your skin cool, or in cases of patients with very sensitive skin, a topical numbing agent.
Otherwise, there are few side effects that accompany IPL treatment, most of which are usually minor and temporary:
- Skin soreness
- Mild pinkness or redness
- Stinging sensation, as if a mild sunburn (redness, peeling, swelling)
- Skin discoloration
Contact Us to Learn More About Nevus of Ota and Treatment Options
For questions about this or any other similar skin hyperpigmentation condition, trust your skin to a world-class San Diego dermatologist at Cosmetic Laser Dermatology for effective laser treatment. We understand the psychological impact that unsightly, unwanted skin conditions can have, so contact us online or call us at (858) 943-2113 for unmatched care and attention. We are located in the UTC area, minutes from Del Mar, La Jolla, and Downtown.
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