How to Know When Redness, Spots, and Discoloration is Pityriasis Alba


Skin can change its color and appearance for a number of reasons. When the skin develops red, scaly patches that leave the skin a lighter color, that condition could be pityriasis alba. “Pityriasis alba is actually a relatively common and benign condition that can usually be addressed with relatively straightforward measures,” says Dr. Miriam Hanson, board certified dermatologist in Austin, Texas. But for those who develop pityriasis alba, the redness, inflammation, and change in skin color is understandably alarming.

“We don’t know for sure what causes pityriasis alba,” says Dr. Hanson, “but the condition is thought to be related to atopic dermatitis, a type of eczema.” Because Happy group of kids playing at the parkeczema may be rooted in an immune system response to irritants, the redness of pityriasis alba could be an inflammatory response to an immune system trigger.

“Pityriasis alba is most common in children, often appearing between the ages of 6 and 12,” says Emily Johnston, certified physician assistant at Sanova Dermatology. “Patients often come with a history of rosy red cheeks that resolves with lighter, almost white patches on the face.” Some claim that frequent hot baths and excessive sun exposure can also contribute to this condition.

Dermatologists usually diagnose pityriasis alba by observing the signs and symptoms exhibited by the patient. “I often use shine a special light called a Wood’s lamp that can help highlight skin pigmentation when shined on the skin,” says Emily. In very unclear cases, I might also consider performing a skin biopsy.”

“With children especially, there is always concern that the condition could be permanent,” says Dr. Hanson. “Patients often worry that their skin discoloration is vitiligo, a condition where pigment actually goes completely missing from the skin.” This is actually not the case. Dr. Hanson explains that while the underlying inflammation tends to stun pigment production in the skin, P. alba resolves as this inflammation goes away.

It might be reassuring to know that pityriasis alba is not dangerous, nor is it contagious. In many cases, the condition will resolve itself with time. But if necessary, treatment could include moisturizer or lotion, which helps the skin retain moisture. If a stronger level of intervention is necessary, doctors may prescribe a topical corticosteroid to reduce inflammation.

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If you, or your child, have had redness or discoloration of the skin, please contact us. We can help you understand pityriasis alba and tell you what steps you need to take to address it.

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