White spots on skin are often characterized by white patches or small boils appearing on the skin. There are various factors that may lead to white patches on the skin. The core is melanin which is a component that is responsible for rendering color to the skin.
Melanin is a pigment that is produced in the outermost layer of the skin. The concentration of this pigment is what determines the color of the skin. Melanin manufacturing in turn is regulated by melanocytes which are cells that are present in the basal layer of the epidermis. People with darker skin have larger amount of melanin in their body as compared to those with lighter skin.
It is crucial for the skin to produce sufficient amount of melanin regularly to ensure that the skin maintains its color. So if a person is suffering from skin discoloration and white spots on the skin then it may indicate malfunction of melanocytes. However, it may also occur due to other factors as well.
Causes of White spots on skin
- Vitiligo: Prevalence of vitiligo is a strong indication of destruction of melanocytes, which means that there is no melanin production. During initial stages of the condition white spots will be visible on the skin. As the condition aggravates these spots continues to enlarge and patches grow bigger. If appropriate treatment is not taken then the discoloration can be on the entire body in long-run.
- Fungal infection:
Human skin is normally colonized with fungi, which means it contains fungi usually without having any problems. However, fungus becomes a problem when the count of it increases above the normal range. Excessive fungi causes a condition called tinea versicolor. The affected skin region often changes its color and discoloration is seen in form of white spots on the skin. This spots often occur at the back, torso and shoulders.
- Nevus depigmentosus:
This condition occurs due to decreased melanin production in the body. The condition is characterized with small white spots or patches appearing on the skin which may measure between half to one centimeter. As the condition aggravates the spots appearing close to each other may also combine and turn into patches. These patches do not become red if friction is applied.
- Pityriasis Alba:
This condition is characterized by minute white patches appearing on the skin, mostly in the region such as neck, face and arms. Pityriasis Alba is common in children ageing between 6 years to 12 years. Initially the condition causes lesions that appear pinkish or reddish with irregular shape. Sometimes the condition may also lead to occurrence of white scaly patches on child’s superficial skin.
- Idiopathic Guttate Hypomelanosis:
Idiopathic guttate hypomelanosis is another condition which can lead to white spots or marks appearing on the skin. These marks measure around 2 to 5 mm in size. These spots appear on areas which are often exposed such as arms, neck and face. It is widely believed that the condition may occur due to exposure to UV rays.
- Lichen Sclerosus:
Lichen Sclerosus is a rare condition. This condition is characterized with thinning of skin along with white patches. This condition can appear on any body part but are mostly seen on area such as genitals and anus. This condition is common in post menopausal women.
Treatment for white spots on skin
Since there are several conditions that cause white spots on skin, the treatment for the condition would also depend on the cause. Here are treatment techniques explained for aforementioned causes.
- Vitiligo treatment: if the white spots on skin are due to Vitiligo then you may not necessarily need treatment in almost all cases. This is because skin may probably return its color without medical aid. However, in some cases using topical creams and sunscreen will help in improving skin appearance. People who have fair skin complexion should avoid tanning as it will make skin appearance even worse and patches may become more prominent. Doctor’s may recommend immunomodulators or corticosteroids according to the condition. In severe cases surgery may be required.
- Fungal infection:
After confirming the prevalence of fungal infection your doctor will recommend topical anti-fungal creams. These creams should be applied to the affected spots to even the skin tone. He may also prescribe oral anti-fungal medicines which includes drugs like Nizoral or Sporanox, etc. There are also over the counter medicines that can be used as treatment. These over the counter medicines include clotrimazole and miconazole. However, before taking these drugs one should consult a doctor. Certain lotions that contain pyrithione zinc, ketoconazole and selenium sulfide are said to be highly effective.
- Nevus depigmentosus:
There is no treatment for nevus depigmentosus. Hence, people are often suggested to hide the spot using cosmetics. You should consult your doctor before using cosmetics.
- Pityriasis Alba:
This condition may not need any treatment and the color of the skin may return to normal overtime. However, doctor may sometimes prescribe patients with medicines and caring techniques. Doctors may recommend topical corticosteroids to restore the color to normal. It is crucial to maintain moisture of the skin and avoid exposure to sun.
- Idiopathic guttate hypomelanosis:
If white spots on skin are due to idiopathic guttate hypomelanosis then one can use steroid cream. After thorough examination your doctor may recommend surgical procedures. One of such operation includes cryotherapy which involves using nitrogen to freeze the affected area.
- Lichen sclerosus:
This condition is caused due to hormonal imbalance. It may also be caused due to immune disorder. However, the actual cause of the condition is not confirmed. Irrespective of the cause of the condition, corticosteroid creams and other lotions can be used to treat white spots caused by lichen sclerosus.
Malnutrition is another recognized reason for white patches appearing on skin. Malnutrition may cause Vitamin E, Calcium and Vitamin D deficiency. If discoloration of skin does not alleviate in a week or two then consult your dermatologist immediately. For conditions that are not serious one can use home remedies; nevertheless, it is better to consult your doctor before using any treatment technique against any skin irregularities.