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Pityriasis alba is Latin for white, scaly patches. The condition is commonly seen in childhood. Children with this extremely common condition develop round or oval, light colored patches after sun exposure. The patches can be dry with very fine scales. The patches vary from 1 to 2 inches in diameter, they are most common on the face (cheeks), neck, upper trunk, and upper arms of children 3 to 17 years old.
Cause: In children the cells that produce color in the skin (melanocytes) are very sensitive to any type of disturbance, including irritation, dry skin, and any form of mild forms eczema. The disturbance causes the cells that normally produce color to, temporarily, "go to sleep". This results in areas of lighter discoloration. The darker one's skin, the more apparent the condition can be, especially during sunnier seasons. Persons with certain forms of eczema may be more prone to developing pityriasis alba.
The condition is harmless and is mostly a cosmetic concern. The involved patches don't darken with sun exposure the way the surrounding skin does. This results in a contrasting skin color that typically seems to be more prominent during the sunnier times of the year. Even with no treatment at all, the spots will disappear on their own, although it may take months to years. Some people get pityriasis alba every summer during childhood. Even then, the pigmentation will eventually end up normal.
Dr. Crutchfield prefers to prescribe a prescription strength moisturizer and anti-inflammatory lotion that greatly speeds the clearing of the lesions, and reduces the recurrence of pityriasis alba in the future.
Even when pityriasis alba is effectively treated, the white patches may remain for a while. A few weeks must pass for the areas of discoloration to return to normal.