White patches on skin may have different causes, but all with life altering effects. For some people, being uncomfortable and depressed can be common, while others learn to embrace it and make the most of it.
The following are common questions people might have when they notice white spots on skin, whether it’s caused by sun damage or naturally through disease or autoimmune conditions.
What Causes White Spots?
There are 4 common reasons white spots may occur on a person’s skin:
Idiopathic Guttate Hypomelanosis
For some, it can happen after an increased amount of ultraviolet radiation has occurred on the skin, disabling the proper production of melanin. These white patches called idiopathic guttate hypomelanosis are more prevalent in white skinned individuals who are at least 40 years of age. Of course it’s not impossible for a younger, dark skinned person to get it either.
Is idiopathic guttate hypomelanosis contagious?
No, idiopathic guttate hypomelanosis is not contagious.
How is idiopathic guttate hypomelanosis diagnosed?
Idiopathic guttate hypomelanosis is typically diagnosed visually. However, there are options to do a biopsy if a doctor is uncertain or feels it necessary to do so.
Some white spots are common with people who have an autoimmune condition called vitiligo. Vitiligo doesn’t need the help of the sun. It can affect both the hair and skin, making it very obvious for other people to notice. The actual cause and extent of its size or rate of development is unpredictable.
Is vitiligo contagious?
How is vitiligo diagnosed?
Typically, a doctor can determine whether white skin spots or patches are signs of vitiligo. To be certain, he or she may refer a patient for laboratory tests.
Tinea ersicolor is also known as pityriasis versicolor and is often caused by an accumulation of yeast. Hot weather and sometimes a weak immune system can cause a rash which eventually results in white spots or white skin patches.
Is tinea versicolor contagious?
No, tinea versicolor is not contagious.
How is tinea versicolor diagnosed?
There are 3 ways a doctor may diagnose tinea versicolor:
- Skin scraping:
- Use of ultraviolet light:
This is when skin is scraped gently and the cells are viewed under a microscope for yeast that causes the condition.
If an area as affected, a yellow-green color will appear under ultraviolet light.
A biopsy for tissue sample is performed and once taken may be tested in a fungal culture.
Pityriasis alba is most common in children and sometimes young adults. It’s known as a mild form of dermatitis appearing as an eczematous-like rash, which often goes away on its own. It can be itchy if it appears as white, scaly patches.
Is pityriasis alba contagious?
No, pityriasis alba contagious is not contagious.
How is pityriasis alba diagnosed?
How Are White Spots or White Patches on Skin Treated?
Each type is treated differently. Idiopathic guttate hypomelanosis and pityriasis alba can go away on its own, but may also be treated with creams and topical solutions. Tinea versicolor may also be treated with creams but sometimes also need the help of oral medication.
Vitiligo, on the other hand have potential to spread throughout the body. Since it’s an autoimmune condition, it doesn’t just go away as easily as other conditions that may only require the simplicity of creams and time.
Just like other autoimmune conditions, a healthy diet, exercise and proper care may be necessary for prevention. However, there are treatments that are known to be most effective using UVA light therapy and psoralen, a plant-derived substance to help return color to light patches of skin.
Some facilities may not offer the option of a UVA treatment simply because they don’t have the device. For best results with your vitiligo treatments, ask your doctor to refer you to someone with the DuaLight® targeted phototherapy system that will target these areas the best way possible.
How White Spots Can Affect a Person’s Life
Although most people are taught “not to stare,” having vitiligo or very obvious white spots can be more emotionally than physically uncomfortable for those who have. Sure there may be some itching, but it’s not as distressing as having someone stare at you or treat you differently because they’re uneducated about what it is.
There are many cases where it can be the main reason for depression in someone’s life. Self-esteem issues and a lack of confidence can create hostile situations for many sufferers. At the same time, it can also be seen as a beautiful gift, especially for those who have learned to embraced it.