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Pityriasis alba

Pityriasis alba is a common skin disorder of patches of light-colored (hypopigmented) areas.

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Causes

The cause is unknown but may be linked to atopic dermatitis (eczema). The disorder is most common in children and teens. It is more noticeable in children with dark skin.

Symptoms

The problem areas on the skin (lesions) often start as slightly red and scaly patches that are round or oval. They usually appear on the face, upper arms, neck, and upper middle of the body. After these lesions go away, the patches turn light-colored (hypopigmented).

The patches do not tan easily. Because of this, they may get red quickly in the sun. As the skin surrounding the patches darkens normally, the patches may become more visible.

Exams and Tests

The health care provider can usually diagnose the condition by looking at the skin. Tests, such as potassium hydroxide (KOH), may be done to rule out other skin problems. In very rare cases, a skin biopsy is done.

Treatment

The provider may recommend the following treatments:

Outlook (Prognosis)

Pityriasis alba usually goes away on its own with patches returning to normal pigment over many months.

Possible Complications

Patches may get sunburned when exposed to sunlight. Applying sunscreen and using other sun protection can help prevent sunburn.

When to Contact a Medical Professional

Call your provider if your child has patches of hypopigmented skin.

Related Information

Atopic dermatitis

References

Dinulos JGH. Light-related diseases and disorders of pigmentation. In: Dinulos JGH, ed. Habif's Clinical Dermatology. 7th ed. Philadelphia, PA: Elsevier; 2021:chap 19.

Patterson JW. Disorders of pigmentation. In: Patterson JW, ed. Weedon's Skin Pathology. 5th ed. Philadelphia, PA: Elsevier; 2021:chap 11.

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Review Date: 4/14/2021  

Reviewed By: Elika Hoss, MD, Senior Associate Consultant, Mayo Clinic, Scottsdale, AZ. Also reviewed by David Zieve, MD, MHA, Medical Director, Brenda Conaway, Editorial Director, and the A.D.A.M. Editorial team.

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