White patches on skin are caused by vitiligo, skin fungus, loss of pigment, sun exposure or tanning etc. In some people, the white patches start as dry itchy spots on face, back, arms and legs. Here are the causes of white spots on skin, splotches, bumps, dots and light patches as well as treatments to get rid of the discoloration.
What is the name of disease that causes white patches on the skin, face, back, legs, and around the neck? Both tinea versicolor and vitiligo are two of the most common causes of those discoloration marks on your skin. The discoloration is normally described as white spots on skin, white bumps, white splotches or white dots. Whichever way you call them, you are more likely describing the same condition.
White Patches on Skin Pictures
Whether they are patches, splotches, small spots or dots, it can be difficult to identify the exact symptom or distinguish it from other skin discoloration disorders. Here are photos, images and pictures of white spots on the skin. The common areas of the body affected are the upper back, shins, shoulders, upper forearms, face and even around eyes. Some people may get these patches on the inner thighs.
What causes white patches on skin?
Skin discoloration and loss of pigment are common in the elderly. They are sometimes known as signs of aging and considered normal. But when the skin in both children and adults gets small patches or big areas of discoloration, it could be a symptom of a disease.
The causes range from vitiligo, pityriasis Alba, idiopathic guttate hypomelanosis, hypopigmentation, sun exposure, some vitamin deficiencies, fungal infections on skin and liver diseases. All these, and more causes can manifest in people of all races, though they may be obvious in African Americans or dark-skinned people due to a higher contrast.
1. Vitiligo white splotches on skin
Vitiligo on hands – courtesy of Wikipedia
“Vitiligo develops when cells called melanocytes die. Melanocytes give your skin and hair color.” It causes the skin to lose its pigment in patches or blotches. This skin disease is chronic and starts to show symptoms slowly as parts of the skin start to become lighter than the rest of the skin’s complexion.
According to the American Academy of Dermatology, the loss of skin color or pigment may not be limited to the skin alone. Parts of the body with hair may be affected as well. Patients may exhibit white patches on skin and hair depending on the affected area.
There are two main types of vitiligo: segmental vitiligo and non-segmental vitiligo. Segmental vitiligo affects only one side of the body while non-segmental vitiligo affects skin on both sides such as both knees or both hands.
- The risk of vitiligo skin pigment loss is high in people with autoimmune disease.
- It occurs equally in people of all races and skin colors.
- Vitiligo rarely disappears once one gets its symptoms of skin depigmentation.
“Leukoderma is a cutaneous condition, an acquired condition with localized loss of pigmentation of the skin…” [Wikipedia.com]. Vitiligo is a type of leukoderma, although most people interchange the terms (incorrectly).
Causes of leukoderma include some drugs, specifically intralesional steroid injections, some infections such as leprosy, Pityriasis versicolor, post-inflammatory, immunological and congenital such as partial albinism. With white splotches on skin due to leukoderma, the skin may or may not regain its normal color.
3. White spots on skin from sun exposure and tanning
Sun exposure can cause what most people call white sun spots on skin. According to Dr. Greene, round and oval patches of skin discoloration may appear on the skin after sun exposure. These are more common in children and people who have had years of sun exposure or sun tanning.
Tanning in the summer during summer holidays is one of those activities that cause the small white patches of pigment loss. Other than changing the texture of your skin, sun tanning and exposure to harmful UV-rays for years “can result in the development of brown freckles, the growth of lesions known as solar lentigines and the appearance of small white marks about 2-5 millimeters in size…” [KnowYourOwnSkin.com.au].
4. Dry itchy white patches on skin from eczema and psoriasis
The small patches on your skin may appear as silver scales. These, dandruff-like scales are more likely to be caused by psoriasis. Psoriasis can affect smaller portions of your skin or can be severe and affect large areas that may appear to have pale white patches.
Both eczema and psoriasis are said to cause what is known as post-inflammatory depigmentation or white spots on the skin. However, the patches are better described as light patches on skin rather than white blotches or areas.
According to Mayo Clinic, dry itchy white patches, dots and spots on skin from eczema and psoriasis are “particularly common in children who have allergies, asthma or eczema.”
5. Zinc, calcium and vitamin B12 deficiency
White spots on the skin may be caused by malnutrition. Dietary deficiencies of vitamin D, zinc, vitamin E, calcium and vitamin B12 can cause pigment loss disorders. The white marks on skin are more likely to develop in children who are malnutrition than in adults.
The Health Guidance Organization points out that vitamin B12 deficiency leads to paleness to the skin or a yellow tinge to the skin. Hyperactivity of your thyroid glands may also result from this vitamin deficiency. Calcium deficiency can also cause white spots and marks on nails and skin.
6. Skin fungus or tinea versicolor
Tinea versicolor is also called Pityriasis versicolor. White patches on skin from fungus are also common. The condition is called tinea versicolor. “It is caused by a type of fungus called Pityrosporum ovale” or Malassezia furfur. [NLM.NIH.gov]. The main symptom of tinea versicolor yeast is white patches or areas of skin discoloration.
The skin fungus is common in adolescent or teenage boys who sweat a lot. The fungus thrives better due to sweat and may be more prevalent in hot humid climates. The white splotches on skin that occur from this fungal infection appear mostly on the underarms (armpit), neck, chest and upper arms. The inner thighs can also get discolored.
7. Idiopathic guttate hypomelanosis on arms, legs and face
White spots on skin that usually appear as 2 to 5-mm, flat white spots on areas of the body that are exposed to the sun are caused by Idiopathic guttate hypomelanosis. The white spots are often described as diffuse hypopigmented macules.
The cause of cause is unknown, hence the name idiopathic. The white spots are common on areas of the skin that are easily exposed to the sun. These are the forearms, shins and legs. However, other parts of the body such as the upper back, shoulders, face and neck. White skin patches of this kind are predominant on elderly skin – in people who are aging, usually over 40 years.
8. Birthmarks, genetic or hereditary causes
As already mentioned, congenital disorders may also cause white spots and patches on the skin. Partial albinism and some birthmarks are examples of these.
According to some sources, leukoderma and vitiligo are sometimes hereditary. This means that disorder that causes loss of skin pigment caused by these two skin diseases is genetic. If your parents have the areas of discoloration appearing as white splotches, blotches or spots, you are also likely to get them.
Beautyzion notes that “White birthmarks on baby are common in autistic children. They could also be linked to the health condition known as tuberus sclerosis.”
Hypopigmentation is the loss of skin color due to the depletion of the pigment producing cells in the particular part of the skin. Melanocytes (cells in the body responsible for pigment or melanin production) reduce in number due to the reduction in tyrosine amino acid.
Light patches on skin appear as a symptom of melanin production deficiency. Vitiligo, lupus, tinea versicolor and other skin disorders discussed in this article may all contribute to the loss of melanin. In children or newborns, hypopigmentation is a result of congenital disorders. In such cases, pigmentary dilution may affect not only the skin but also the eye color and hair color.
10. Milia and diaper rash in children
Another cause of white spots and blotches on your skin is milia and diaper rash. Milia spots can appear around and under eyes. They are also common on lips. These, however, appear as small white dots on the skin. They may be pus-filled and can easily be described as clusters of pimples on the skin. When they appear as a cluster, they may look like small white patches.
In children below 3 months old, diaper rash or heat rash can also produce small white patches and spots on the diaper area. It is important to note that both milia and diaper rash dots are not due to loss of skin pigment.
11. Lichen sclerosus on thighs, genitals
Discoloration in the thigh area is common in overweight people due to thigh chafing. In this case though, the genital area can be affected by growing white blotches. It is also characterized by the skin getting thinner than on the rest of the body parts.
The inner thighs and vulva are the most affected in women, whereby the skin becomes thin, wrinkled and whitened. In men, the foreskin of the penis and the anal area gets depigmented. According to Mayo Clinic, lichen sclerosus white skin patches do not need treatment. The skin normally restores its pigment on its own. If not, treatment may be required.
12. Nevus depigmentosus and halo mole
Nevus depigmentosus is a congenital disorder characterized by a white patch that is non-progressive hypopigmented macule. It is said to be stable and remains fairly the same size throughout different stages of life.
Halo nevus or halo mole on the other hand is a mole that has lost its pigment and hence appears to be a raised white bump on skin. According to DermNet, these moles are benign and occur mostly in adolescents from the age of 15 years.
13. Thyroid disease or disorder
Thyroid disorders can also cause white patches on skin. Both hypothyroidism and hyperthyroidism can have an effect on the skin and its functions. Dr. J. Margesson, MD, FRCP(C) of the Thyroid Foundation of Canada notes that some skin disorders and diseases are associated with thyroid problems.
These diseases include vitiligo, lupus erythematosus, vitiligo and scleroderma. Severe dry skin may also be a symptom of thyroid problems.
Other minimally mentioned causes of white patches on skin include the following:
- Skin allergies
- Dryness of the skin
- Skin cancer or melanoma
- Lupus disease
- Leukemia or blood cancer
- Liver disease or dysfunction
- Poor circulation of blood in the affected areas
- Ringworm effects
White Patches and Splotches on Face, Back, Legs and Arms
What parts of the body are the most affected with white spots on skin? Most people suffer from skin pigment loss on joints such as knees and elbows; face, neck, legs and upper arms. White splotches on skin and small raised dots are common on parts that are directly exposed to sun rays. If you visit tanning booths and beds, you are also likely to get these.
White spots and patches on the face, neck and upper shoulders are majorly a cosmetic problem. They can cause loss of confidence and such discomforts. In such cases, surgical skin graft and other treatments can help solve the problem.
How to get rid of white patches on skin
For some of the causes discussed, such as psoriasis, there is no cure. Daily exposure to sunlight in moderated bits, proper diet and care as well as some home remedies can help reduce and get rid of white spots on skin, back, skin, face, legs and arms.
a) Radish seeds home remedy
Radish seeds are said to restore pigmentation where there is loss of some. Here’s how to use radish seeds to cure vitiligo spots fast.
- Crush a few radish seeds.
- Put them in a bowl and add a little vinegar
- Mix these ingredients to make a fairly thick paste.
- Apply the paste on the areas of your skin with white spots and patches.
- Leave overnight and wash off in the morning.
- Repeat daily until the pigment is restored on those areas.
b) Red clay mask natural cure for white patches on face
Red clay, sometimes called rhassoul clay has some benefits for skin due to its high copper content. Some people call it the red Moroccan clay. When mixed with ginger juice, it is said to help get rid of leukoderma on face. Here’s how to use it.
- Get some Moroccan red clay or rhassoul clay in a bowl.
- Add ginger juice in the bowl.
- Mix the two ingredients to make a thick paste for applying on your face.
- Apply as a face mask daily to cure vitiligo, leukoderma and hypopigmentation.
Studies have shown that when mixed with argan oil, rhassoul clay remedy helps restore skin pigmentation, improves clarity and reduces dryness of the skin.
c) Copper water
Copper improves melanin production in the body. To make a natural treatment for hypopigmentation at home, do the following:
- Buy a copper pot for storing drinking water.
- Pour drinking water into the copper container.
- Leave the water overnight. Ensure you store at room temperature.
- Drink the water on an empty stomach, preferably on waking up.
- Do this daily to improve melanin production and treat skin pigment loss.
d) Ginkgo biloba
Ginkgo biloba is known to have strong immunomodulatory and antioxidant properties. That is why it is used as a treatment for vitiligo and tinea versicolor. Proper and continual use can help stop the growth of white patches and restart re-pigmentation of the areas that have lost pigment.
Consult your doctor for the proper dose of ginkgo biloba remedy. The general dosage is said to be between 40 and 80 mg taken 3 times a day.
e) Babchi ayurvedic remedy
Babchi is also known as Psoralea corylifolia. It is known to be “a popular herb that has for a long time been used in traditional Ayurvedic and Chinese medicine for its magical effects to cure various skin diseases.” [NCBI.NLM.NIH.gov]. Here’s how to use it to reduce white patches on the skin fast.
- Soak babchi seeds in ginger extract or juice for about 2 to three days.
- Each of those days, replace the ginger juice to keep it fresh.
- Remove the husks on the seeds by applying pressure using palms.
- Dry the seeds in the sun and grind them to get powder.
- Apply the powder to the areas with white spots on skin.
- Repeat until the pigment returns to normal.
f) Coconut oil for white dry patches on skin
If your skin is dry and itchy from psoriasis and eczema, coconut oil can help sooth and moisturize it. It will help relieve the chronic inflammation.
Coconut oil promotes repigmentation of the skin and that is why it is used as a natural treatment for vitiligo patches on the skin. If the spots are caused by a fungal infection on the skin, coconut oil will also get rid of the fungus because of its antifungal properties.
- Apply extra-virgin coconut oil on the skin areas affected with white patches.
- Repeat three times a day until you see an improvement on your complexion.
g) Skin graft treatment for white skin patches
Skin grafting is a surgical procedure that is used to replace the skin that has lost pigment with a pigmented one. The skin is grafted from areas that are normal and placed on those that have lost pigment.
“The white portion of skin is rubbed off or peeled off very superficially and a very thin skin graft contacting only the top most layer of skin with melanin pigment is applied over that.” – MyCosmeticSurgery.in. Once completed, the results are said to be the best.
h) Topical medications for vitiligo
When skin makeup does not work as expected to cover white spots on skin due to vitiligo, your doctor may prescribe some medications to help get rid of the blotches. The most common potent prescriptions are those of topical corticosteroid creams.
Studies have shown that 45 percent of patients have been able to get rid of white patches on skin and regain pigment after 4 to 6 months of this treatment. However, it must be noted that topical treatments for vitiligo may not be as effective on the hands and legs as on the face.
i) Antifungal medications
In the case of tinea versicolor, your doctor will first diagnose your symptoms. A skin scraping is observed under a microscope to identify the yeast or fungus. The fungal infection is then treated with either topical or oral anti-fungal medications.
Some over-the-counter anti-dandruff shampoos such as Selsun Blue may be used to get rid of the fungus causing white spots on your skin. Apply the shampoo to the part of the skin that is affected for about 10 minutes. Wash it off and repeat daily until the loss of pigment is fixed.
Other than these medical and homeopathic treatments for vitiligo and other pigment loss disorders, you should observe home care practices that will help you deal with and minimize the problem.
- Eat a balanced diet and load more on foods rich in vitamin B12, calcium and vitamin D. Increase your intake of zinc as research has shown that it is effective in reducing vitiligo.
- Avoid direct sun exposure. Wear sunscreen on your face, legs, neck and arms daily before sunbathing.
- Try cosmetic solutions such as makeup. Waterproof skin colors can help conceal small white spots on skin.
Video on White Bumps on Skin
Sources and References
- American Academy of Dermatology: Vitiligo Causes and Treatments
- DermNet NZ: Leucoderma causes (Skin depigmentation)
- Know Your Own Skin: The effects of sun damage
- Mayo Clinic: Dermatitis (Eczema and Psoriasis)
- S. National Library of Medicine: Tinea versicolor
- BeautyZion: White Birthmarks on Hair and Stomach Meaning
- Medscape: Halo Nevus or White Mole Bumps
- The Indian Journal of Dermology on PMC: ZINC CAN BE EFFECTIVE IN TREATMENT OF VITILIGO
- My Cosmetic Surgery: Vitiligo Or White Patch Surgery
- BioMed Central: Ginkgo biloba for the treatment of vitilgo vulgaris: an open label pilot clinical trial
- Thyroid Foundation of Canada: Thyroid Disease and the Skin