White spots on the skin can occur with many different conditions, including eczema. Treatment may include topical products and medications, depending on the cause.
White spots on the skin aren’t usually aren’t a cause for concern and may be treated at home. Keep reading to learn some of the most common causes, how to treat them, and when to talk with a doctor.
You may experience white spots on your skin due to health conditions and skin disorders. Some causes may occur due to yeast, autoimmune conditions, or genetics.
Tinea versicolor causes spots that may be lighter or darker than the surrounding skin. They may get larger over time, especially when the air is warm and humid. They may appear in shades of:
Other symptoms can include:
Everyone has microscopic yeast living on their skin, but people with tinea versicolor experience an overgrowth of the yeast.
Tinea versicolor may occur due to caused by:
- excessive sweating
- oily skin
- humid, warm conditions
- a weakened immune system
It can affect people in any ethnic group. Teenagers may be more susceptible than people in other age groups due to their more oily skin.
Eczema (atopic dermatitis) is an inflammatory skin condition. You may experience dry, itchy skin that may leak clear fluid when you scratch it.
The spots may appear different depending on your skin color. If you have lighter skin, the affected skin
- darker brown
- ashen gray
Other symptoms can include:
- open, leaky sores
During an eczema flare-up, you may experience symptoms in multiple areas of the body.
Over time, areas of the body most affected by eczema may become thickened, dry, and scaly. Eczema rashes may flare up and recede without an obvious pattern. You may also go years without symptoms.
Vitiligo occurs when certain skin cells called melanocytes stop making melanin. It may be an autoimmune disease, caused by the body’s immune system destroying the melanocytes. Melanin is the pigment that gives color to your skin, hair, and eyes. Without pigment, white patches form.
Vitiligo can affect people of all races and genders. It may be more noticeable on skin of color.
These patches can appear anywhere on the body. Vitiligo is usually symmetric, though it can appear on just one side of the body. Typical areas affected by vitiligo include the:
- mucous membranes, like the inside of the mouth and nose
Vitiligo typically develops before you turn
Idiopathic guttate hypomelanosis (IGH) appears as small white spots on skin. It affects areas that receive high amounts of sun exposure, such as the arms and legs. The white spots are painless and benign.
Pityriasis alba typically starts out as slightly scaly plaques on the chin and cheeks. They may appear paler than the surrounding skin. They may be round, oval, or irregular in shape, and are usually dry and scaly to the touch. The patches may clear up on their own or become lighter in color over time.
This skin disorder
Lichen sclerosus is a rare condition seen in younger and older people. In people with vaginas, it causes white patches of thin skin, usually around the anus and vulva. In people with penises, the disorder tends to affect the foreskin of the penis.
It can also affect other areas of the body, though this is
Mild cases may not show any other noticeable symptoms. But, when other symptoms do occur, they may include:
- painful intercourse
- severe itching
- difficulty with urination
- skin that bruises or tears easily
Lichen sclerosus doesn’t have a known cause, although hormonal imbalance or an overactive immune system may play a role.
Treating white spots on the skin can depend on their cause.
Symptoms usually go away in cooler weather, but they may reappear when the temperature and humidity climb. Treatment in its earliest stages may help break this cycle.
If your symptoms are mild, you can try treating them at home with over-the-counter (OTC) antifungal products. Antifungals help reduce yeast, eliminating or lessening the spots. Topical medications include:
- selenium sulfide
Depending on how severe your symptoms are, it may take weeks or months before the spots go away. Often, the skin regains its former appearance.
If home treatments aren’t enough, a dermatologist can prescribe stronger topical creams or oral medication. You may need to repeat these treatments periodically.
Treatment for eczema focuses on symptom management. You may be able to reduce your symptoms by keeping your skin healthy and lubricated.
- Use mild cleansers instead of harsh soaps.
- Treat the rash with medicated creams.
- Keep your skin moisturized.
- Avoid overly long and hot showers or baths.
- Wear gloves when using cleaning solvents.
- Use all-natural solvents instead of chemicals.
Using anti-itch creams or oral allergy medication, like an antihistamine, may help reduce itching.
If these solutions aren’t enough, a doctor may recommend topical corticosteroids or other treatments, depending on the type of eczema you have.
Treatment for vitiligo is cosmetic and aims to restore color to the affected skin. It can take trial and error with several therapies.
A doctor may recommend one or more of the
- ultraviolet (UV) light therapy
- ruxolitinib (Opzelura), a Janus kinase (JAK) inhibitor
Some people with vitiligo find that using cover-up cosmetics is their most effective option for reducing the appearance of white patches.
You may also need to take measures to prevent sun exposure, such as wearing sunscreen or protective clothing. Sun exposure may cause long-term skin damage.
In severe cases of vitiligo, surgical treatments may also be an option. A doctor can talk with you about what may be right for you.
Idiopathic guttate hypomelanosis (sun spots)
Wearing sunblock and avoiding excessive sun exposure is a good first step toward reducing further skin damage.
Only a few options exist for treating sun spots after they appear. If you want to reduce the appearance of these white spots, talk with a doctor about calcineurin inhibitors or laser treatments.
Pityriasis usually clears up on its own, but recurrences can happen. Treatments used to diminish the white patches include:
- moisturizing creams
- topical steroids
- nonsteroidal creams
Treatments for this condition try to reduce itching and scarring and eliminate further thinning of the skin. They may improve the skin’s appearance, as well.
A doctor may recommend topical corticosteroid lotions or creams.
White spots often clear up on their own. If they last longer than several weeks or you’re distressed by their appearance, talk with a doctor. They can help determine the cause and advise you on your options for treatment.
A doctor often needs little more than a visual assessment of the skin to make a diagnosis. In some cases, they may take a biopsy.
If your spots are accompanied by pain or intense itching that interferes with your daily life, you may want to reach out to a doctor right away.
Different skin conditions can cause white spots to develop on your skin. The other symptoms you experience may help a doctor identify the cause.
Treatment can depend on the underlying cause of your white spots.