White patches on your skin – What does it mean?

Do you spot white patches on areas of your skin and are uncertain of what they actually are?

Those white spots you see could be due to:

  • Sunspots (Guttate Hypomelanosis)
  • Tinea versicolor
  • Pityriasis alba
  • Vitiligo

Symptoms & Causes

  1. Sunspots

Sunspots are defined porcelain-white depigmented skin patches, often 5mm in diameter. They tend to appear exposed areas of the skin like on the arms or on the legs before appearing on other parts of the body. The patches hardly increase much in size and are harmless.

The causes of sunspots are still unknown. Sunspots also seem to be hereditary, inclining to appear after the age of 40 years.

  1. Tinea versicolor a.k.a. Pityriasis versicolor

Tinea versicolor is a skin infection that is caused by body yeast. It often appears on the back, shoulders, upper chest, but rarely on the face. The infection produces a substance that causes skin bleaching and subsequent the formation of pale skin patches which endure for long even beyond effective treatment.

Tinea versicolor discoloured patches come in colour variations. It usually appears dark or red on light skin, and light on dark skin. The appearance may vary over the course of the year. The appearance may also vary with body location.

  1. Pityriasis alba

This skin disease is relatively common. It manifests itself as red, scaly, itchy patches. These patches leave white spots behind after they heal. Children between the ages of 3 and 16 are prone to pityriasis alba it normally affects the face as well as the neck, shoulders, and arms.

Researchers are not sure what causes PA, but they suspect it may be a mild form of atopic dermatitis or eczema.

  1. Vitiligo

In vitiligo, white depigmented patches on skin appear in places where skin pigment cells (a.k.a. melanocytes) have been destroyed. These white skin patches on the skin or discoloured skin patches are known as macules and they can grow larger as the condition worsens.

Common vitiligo sites affected include:

  • Bony areas – back of hands & fingers, elbows and knees
  • Armpits & groins
  • Body orifices – around the eyes, mouth and nose
  • Legs, wrists, nipples and genitalia

Exact causes of vitiligo are not known. Like sunspots, Vitiligo seems to be hereditary. It is believed to be an autoimmune condition, where the immune system mistakenly attacks and destroys healthy melanocytes. Vitiligo patches tend to develop on the body parts that are exposed to the sun and may develop slowly or spread quickly.

Fortunately, vitiligo can be treated and there are already quite a variety of effective treatment options for vitiligo out there.

Knowing the right disease and seeking the correct corresponding treatments can help you expedite your recovery process. Consult a doctor for an accurate diagnosis for the treatment of your skin. Vitiligo Treatment is available in our Vitiligo, Psoriasis & Skin Clinic & DTAP

Vitiligo Treatment Clinic


Medical News Today. (2020). White spots on the skin: Possible causes and treatments. [online] Available at: https://www.medicalnewstoday.com/articles/319887.php#causes-and-symptoms [Accessed 16 Jan. 2020].

National Skin Centre. (2020). Type of skin conditions. [online] Available at: https://www.nsc.com.sg/Patient-Guide/Health-Library/Types%20of%20Skin%20Conditions/Pages/Type-of-skin-conditions.aspx [Accessed 16 Jan. 2020].

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