The right treatment for white patches on the skin depends on what caused the skin changes in the first place. If a fungus or rash has caused the white patches, medication may help eliminate them. For other conditions, doctors may use repigmentation or depigmentation, medication, or even surgery to return the skin to its normal coloring.
Some patches on the skin are caused by a condition called tinea versicolor. This condition causes small patches of whitened skin to form. Tinea versicolor is caused by a fungus and can be treated with antifungul creams and shampoos. Oral antifungal medications may work as well. A person with this condition may start with an over-the-counter medication, moving on to prescription-strength medications if necessary.
Pityriasis alba is another condition that may be responsible for light or whitish patches that form on the skin; no one knows its cause. This long-term condition typically affects children. It causes a light or whitish rash on a person’s face and upper body. Sometimes the rash appears to have flakes or scales.
Usually, the white patches of pityriasis alba go away on their own. This can take a long time to happen, however, and many children will have the rash for months. Applying moisturizers may help to speed the disappearance of the whitish patches. Hydrocortisone may help as well.
Some people develop white skin patches because of vitiligo, which is marked by the loss of melanin, the substance that gives skin its pigmentation. When a person has this condition, melanin production comes to a halt and patches of unpigmented skin develop. Unfortunately, these patches may not remain small and contained. Instead, they often gradually enlarge.
A person may attempt to make the white patches of vitiligo less noticeable rather than treating the condition. For example, he may use makeup to make the color of his skin seem more uniform. For those taking this approach, it’s helpful to wear sunscreen and avoid tanning. Tanning can make the unpigmented patches of skin look more pronounced.
Treatment options for people with vitiligo include medicated topical creams that are used to restore pigmentation. Sometimes ultraviolet light therapies, in combination with topical or oral treatment methods, are used to restore coloring. For those with white patches that cover more than 50 percent of the skin, a depigmentation treatment may be used instead. This involves applying a bleaching agent to darkened patches of a person’s skin. Surgical options, such as skin grafting, which involves transplanting pigmented skin onto whitened patches, and tattooing may be used to produce a more even skin tone.