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What Are the Causes of White Patches of Skin?

The skin is the body's largest organ. It also is the first line of defense when safeguarding the body against external agents that can cause health complications. When something develops on the skin's surface, it often indicates an underlying problem such as allergies, irritation or infection. If white patches appear and persist for an inordinate amount of time, sufferers should contact a medical professional immediately for testing and treatment.

Mild Eczema

According to MayoClinic.com, the presence of one or more white patches on the skin may be due to a mild form of eczema. This skin condition is quite common in all people, especially children. If the white patches accompany itchiness, swelling and surrounding redness, it could indicate an external irritant triggered this reaction or that an individual may have allergies, MedlinePlus reports. MayoClinic.com also says that eczema often results in a patch of skin that is lighter in pigment than the skin around it. Eczema is not a serious condition and applying moisturizer or corticosteroid cream can significantly reduce their appearance. Patients should seek medical attention should the patches worsen or become more severe.

Yeast Infection

Tinea versicolor, or a topical yeast infection, can appear as small white scaly spots usually on the upper arms, chest and back, according to the American Academy of Dermatology. The fungus candida causes this infection by preventing the skin from tanning normally causing noticeable white patches. Individuals with oily skin may be more susceptible than naturally dry skin, reports the American Academy of Dermatology. This infection is also more common during the summer when both temperature and humidity rise. Individuals afflicted with this fungal infection require a fungicidal treatment prescribed by a physician. Topical and oral medications are common methods.

Psoriasis and Vitiligo

MayoClinic.com says that white patches that enlarge or multiply can indicate chronic skin conditions such as psoriasis and vitiligo. Psoriasis appears as raised scaly patches on the skin's surface. Oftentimes the skin is dry, cracked and flaking with an underlying burning sensation. As the condition progresses without treatment or for those with severe forms, pus-filled blisters may appear on the skin, according to FamilyDoctor.org. The most common areas of affliction are the knees and elbows, although it can occur anywhere including the palms of the hands, soles of the feet and the scalp.



Alternately, vitiligo is a condition in which the natural pigmentation of the skin diminishes. This is due to the cells inability to produce melanin causing the characteristic white patch or patches on the skin. There is no cure for this ailment but treatment relies on stopping or slowing the process.

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