Pityriasis alba is a skin disorder that primarily affects people under the age of 20. Round patches of light-colored, rough skin appear on the face, neck, or arms, but do not typically lead to uncomfortable symptoms. Spots can persist for many months, and tend to dissipate completely by early adulthood. In most cases, pityriasis alba can be treated with over-the-counter facial moisturizing creams. If spots become scaly or do not disappear after several months, an individual can obtain prescription topical corticosteroids from a dermatologist.
The causes of pityriasis alba are not well understood by doctors. Research does not indicate that any specific genetic or environmental conditions predispose individuals to developing the disorder. It is one of the most common skin disorders; about five percent of young people worldwide experience noticeable cases. It is more prevalent in children and adolescents with darker skin, and both males and females tend to be affected at about the same rate.
Pityriasis alba usually manifests as up to 20 small white patches of skin. The rounded patches can appear on the cheeks, neck, arms, or shoulders. Most cases of pityriasis alba do not cause pain or irritation, though if skin is excessively dry the patches can become red, scaly, and itchy. Scaly skin may begin to flake if exposed to direct sunlight and high temperatures for extended periods of time.
The condition is typically short-lived, as patches usually fade away in one to six months. In addition, very few people over the age of 20 experience recurring cases of pityriasis alba. Treatment is not typically necessary since most individuals do not experience adverse symptoms. In order to improve the appearance of skin or reduce dryness, however, a person can choose to apply lotion or over-the-counter skin moisturizers. Keeping the skin hydrated and free from oils can promote faster healing and disappearance of spots.
Some children and adolescents suffer from severe cases of pityriasis alba that persist for years at a time or recur frequently. If white spots are unaffected by moisturizers, an individual can visit a dermatologist for a thorough examination and diagnosis. The dermatologist can conduct a physical examination and take a biopsy of skin tissue to check for the presence of more serious skin disorders or cancer. Treatment usually involves the application of corticosteroids to the affected part of the body. Many patients are prescribed a topical hydrocortisone cream to be applied to the patches daily until they are gone.