What is Ochronosis?
Ochronosis is a pathological condition of the skin and mucosa in which there is a discoloration of the skin and mucosa which is normally bluish-black in color. This discoloration takes place mostly on the parts of the skin that are commonly exposed to the sun.
The major cause of Ochronosis is a condition called Alkaptonuria. Alkaptonuria is a genetic disorder which is autosomal recessive in which the HGD enzyme or homogentisate 1,2-dioxygenase becomes inactive resulting in a build up of homogentisic acid within the liver. This acid is passed through the urine giving it a black colored tinge.
Another major cause for Ochronosis is the widespread use of skin lightening products. The skin lightening products contain hydroquinone as one of its ingredients and this chemical is the primary reason for an individual to develop Ochronosis. This is precisely the reason why products containing hydroquinone were almost banned from the United States by the FDA. Ochronosis produces lesions on the sun exposed parts of the skin which are usually yellowish brown in color. The treatment of this condition is quite tough and usually supportive care and preventive measures are used for treatment of Ochronosis.
What Causes Ochronosis?
As stated, the primary cause of Ochronosis is usage of skin whitening products. These products are usually used for beauty purposes. These products contain hydroquinone as one of its ingredients, even if it is in very small amounts, are responsible for development of lesions causing Ochronosis.
Certain medical conditions like melasma require the use of compounds which contain hydroquinone and thus are responsible for development of Ochronosis. The severity of Ochronosis depends on the length of time that these skin whitening products are used, the more the length of time the more are the chances of developing Ochronosis.
What are the Symptoms of Ochronosis?
The symptoms of Ochronosis are:
- Yellowish brown colored fibers which may be in the shape of a banana
- Brownish grey or bluish black discoloration of the skin usually seen in the sun exposed parts of the body.
How is Ochronosis Treated?
As stated, the treatment of Ochronosis is not easy and is mainly preventive. The best way to prevent Ochronosis is by limiting the use of skin whitening products which contain hydroquinone and go towards more natural products. Another way to prevent Ochronosis is by limiting the areas of the body that can be exposed to direct sunlight.
In some cases, cryotherapy has been tried but has not been found to be quite effective in treating Ochronosis. Use of retinoic acid has been found to be effective but not in all cases. The best results for treatment of Ochronosis have been found by utilization of dermocorticoids along with measures to protect the skin. There have also been other treatments tried like skin peeling and laser treatments but they have not produced the desired results in treating Ochronosis.