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Nevus of Ota: What You Should Know

Updated: Sep 4, 2021

What is nevus of Ota?

Nevus of Ota is a type of dermal melanocytosis (excessive melanocytes in the tissues) that causes the hyperpigmentation of an eye and the surrounding area. It often takes the form of bluish or brownish pigment around the eye, along with this pigment appearing on the whites of the eye.

Some individuals may also experience nevus of Ota on the forehead, nose, and cheeks. Others can experience it in the irises or whites of their eyes.

It’s estimated that about 50 percent of all cases of nevus of Ota are present at birth, while the rest typically develop during adolescence. Read on to find out more about this condition and what you can do.

What are the symptoms of nevus of Ota?

Nevus of Ota is typically unilateral, meaning that it usually involves only one side of the face. In some cases, it can present bilaterally on both sides of the face. If this occurs, the condition is referred to as nevus of Hori.

The hyperpigmentation of the skin around the eyes and on the face usually appears to be blue-grey or brown in hue. People with nevus of Ota may experience hyperpigmentation on any of the following areas of the face:

  • eyelids

  • area around the eye

  • nose

  • forehead

  • cheeks

  • side of the face

  • whites of the eyes

  • irises

The hyperpigmentation caused by nevus of Ota appears in areas controlled by the trigeminal nerve. This nerve is located in the side of the face and is responsible for the sensation, or feeling of the face.

Nevus of Ota that affects the eyes themselves can cause thickening of the tissues in and around the eyes.

Although this form of dermal melanocytosis may appear to be light during childhood, it can darken and grow as the person matures. Its color might also vary slightly depending on factors like weather conditions, hormones, or illness.

Areas of hyperpigmentation may appear or grow gradually over a long period of time. However, the condition doesn’t spread beyond the areas of the face controlled by the trigeminal nerve. It’s also not contagious.

How is nevus of Ota treated?

Laser treatments are the most effective corrective approach to nevus of Ota, although they must be repeated more than once, with multiple approaches and applications. The laser treatments work to destroy the melanocytes that cause the bluish hyperpigmentation, with the goal of returning the skin to its natural pigment.

Laser therapy tends to be most effective in individuals with lighter skin tones. These procedures may cause scarring at the treatment site. It’s also not uncommon for the hyperpigmentation to return even after repeat laser treatments. In some cases, the nevus of Ota can return darker than its original hue.

People with nevus of Ota may opt to cover the hyperpigmentation with cosmetic products instead of laser surgery. These products might include camouflaging creams, foundation, or concealer. There are multiple techniques someone may use to conceal the lesions. These include contouring, concealing, and using color-correcting products.

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