A white patch on the body does not always mean Vitiligo/Leucoderma!

There are various conditions, which can cause white patches on the body. Briefly, I have mentioned below common conditions.

1. Pityriasis Alba:

The most common being Pityriasis Alba, which is seen among school going children, occurs on the face. Many parents get worried and start to wonder what’s happening to their child, but this condition is absolutely benign and self-limiting. It goes away on its own over a period of time and should not cause unnecessary concern. These patches are not absolutely white but definitely lighter than rest of the skin and they are almost circular always. They tend to appear more during summers when rest of the skin gets tanned. If it bothers you a lot, please see your dermatologist who can prescribe creams to rectify it. It can be sometimes seen even in adults.

2. Sun allergy:

Also known as polymorphic light eruptions, sun allergy can cause white scaly and itchy patches on the face and hands. These appear suddenly and cause alarm in the patient. If they are very itchy, do not get worked up! See your dermatologist and get help. Meanwhile, you can apply a soothing moisturizer and take tablet Cetrizine to control the itching. Use sunscreen regularly to prevent sun rashes.

3. Post-Inflammatory Hypo-pigmentation:

Mostly seen in babies and infants, these rashes appear after a rash or some injury has occurred to the skin. Specially, it has been noticed that in infants who suffer from eczema rashes, when the rash goes away, it leaves behind the white discoloration, which can cause worry to already worried parents. Do not worry, in a matter of time, the skin does get back to normal and this is just a transient phase. It is similar to when adults get injured and develop dark areas after injury; infants are prone to developing hypo-pigmentation. Many a times, even adults can get this after injury or rash. Prolonged use of topical steroids also causes localized hypo-pigmentation.

4. Leprosy:

The sinister disease dreaded since ages! It starts with a light colored patch anywhere on the body. If you feel lack of sensation there, then immediately see your dermatologist. Leprosy is not just limited to lower socio economic class but sometimes even economically better class of people can get it. Do not delay and get it checked up right away. It is a treatable condition.

5. Vitiligo/Leucoderma:

The most important reason for white patches is a condition, which is auto-immune in nature. These appear as absolute white colored patches and can occur anywhere on the body. They can spread rapidly or slowly or sometimes they may remain localized. It is not an infection and will not spread to anyone who comes in contact with the person suffering it. It’s caused when your body’s immunity rebels against your melanocytes. Melanocytes are cells, which produce the melanin pigment responsible for the color of our skin. When your own anti-bodies target melanocytes, they get destroyed and so melanin is lost, leaving a white discolored area. We still do not understand auto-immune disorders completely. Various applications, phototherapy and surgical grafts can treat the white patches. Speak to your dermatologist.

6. Idiopathic guttate hypomelanosis:

It is seen in elderly people as small white dots around the hands and legs. Not a concern at all; it is a part of aging but sometimes it is seen even in young people.

By Dr. Sofiya Rangwala

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