Understanding Discolored Skin Patches on Children
If you are a parent and just noticed that your child has suddenly developed discolored skin tone patches on their face or body, you may wonder what the cause of this sudden skin discoloration is and whether it is treatable. You may be surprised to hear that skin pigmentation conditions are common in children, and most are no cause for alarm and easily treatable.
Read on to learn about three causes of discolored skin on children and how these skin conditions are treated.
1. Pityriasis Alba
If your child’s skin pigmentation change consists of patches of lighter skin on their face, especially on their cheeks, and/or their upper body, then they may suffer from a common childhood skin condition called pityriasis alba. This skin condition typically affects children between the ages of 3 and 16 years old and often resolves over time without needing treatment.
Pityriasis alba patches typically feel dry and scaly and most commonly affect children with dry skin. These patches of skin often become more noticeable after your child spends time in the sun, because the skin surrounding these patches may darken with sun exposure, while pityriasis alba patches rarely tan.
Mild cases of pityriasis alba can be treated with a simple moisturizer to relieve dry skin discomfort, although dermatologists often recommend hydrocortisone creams for more severe cases of pityriasis alba. To minimize the appearance of pityriasis alba patches, apply sunscreen to your child’s skin before sun exposure to prevent tanning of skin surrounding pityriasis alba patches that typically do not tan.
2. Tinea Versicolor
Another common cause of blotchy skin discoloration in children is a skin infection called tinea versicolor. While often referred to as a fungal infection, this skin condition occurs when a child’s immune system overreacts to a type of fungus called Malassezia furfur that is typically present on all healthy skin.
The telltale sign of a tinea versicolor skin infection is the presence of patches of dark-, light-, and/or pink-toned skin on a child’s neck, chest, back, abdomen, and/or face. As with pityriasis alba, tinea versicolor patches can become more noticeable after sun exposure as the skin around light tinea versicolor patches darkens in the sun as tinea versicolor patches do not.
While no cause for alarm, tinea versicolor infections should diagnosed and treated by a dermatologist. Your child’s dermatologist can prescribe a topical anti-fungal medication that can get the infection under control quickly.
Unfortunately, this condition is very likely to return. To avoid its return after anti-fungal treatment, keep tinea versicolor-prone areas of the body cool and dry when possible and treat new discolored skin patches with an anti-fungal medication as soon as they develop before the infection begins to spread again.
Vitiligo is another common cause of skin discoloration in children. An estimated one to two million people in the United States suffer from vitiligo, and over half of all vitiligo sufferers are children and teenagers. While there are many types of vitiligo, the most common type is vitiligo vulgaris. This skin condition occurs when a child’s immune system attacks skin melanocytes, which are skin cells that produce pigment, for no known reason.
When a child first begins developing vitiligo, a single spot of lighter skin called a macule may appear on their body. Over time, the single lighter spot may grow in size and spread over the body. The most common areas of the body that are affected by vitiligo include areas frequently exposed to the sun; skin around the eyes, nostrils, and mouth; and the genital area.
Thankfully, many vitiligo treatments can be very successful, including topical corticosteroid or anti-inflammatory creams and UV light therapy.
If your child has suddenly developed blotches or patches of uneven skin tone, then they may be suffering from one of these common childhood skin conditions or one of many others that can cause a sudden change in skin tone. Contact the staff at East Carolina Dermatology and Skin Surgery, PLLC, to schedule a skin exam for your child with one of our trusted dermatologists today.