What are white patches?

White patches on your skin are a common type of depigmented skin lesion associated with an infection, allergy, or autoimmune disorder. Rarely, skin cancers and precancerous changes can cause white patches on the skin, but these serious causes are much less common.

One common cause of white spots, or hypopigmentation, is a fungal infection of the skin known as tinea versicolor. This fungal infection is not contagious and can be treated easily with over-the-counter medications. Tinea versicolor is sometimes associated with other symptoms, such as itching or dryness on or around the white patches.

Another important cause of white patches on the skin is vitiligo, an autoimmune disorder that leads to the destruction of melanocytes, the cells that make the pigment that gives your skin color. White patches from vitiligo may come and go or they may be permanent. Vitiligo is most commonly only a cosmetic issue, and a variety of medicines and some procedures can help to minimize the appearance of the white patches.

A third important cause of white patches on the skin is eczema. Eczema is an inflammatory skin condition caused by a hypersensitivity or allergy and is often associated with asthma. Eczema usually results in scaling and itching of the skin, sometimes with peeling or oozing, but it can also lead to the formation of white patches.

Your white patches may develop slowly or all at once. White patches are usually are not serious, although you may wish to consult your health care provider to determine the exact cause of your white patches. Seek prompt medical care if your white patches are persistent or cause you concern.


What other symptoms might occur with white patches?

White patches may accompany other symptoms, which vary depending on the underlying disease, disorder or condition.

Common symptoms that may occur along with white patches

White patches may accompany other symptoms including:


What causes white patches?

White patches are usually caused by one of two conditions: tinea versicolor or vitiligo. Less commonly, white patches on the skin can be caused a skin inflammation known as eczema.

Tinea versicolor is a type of fungal infection that leads to the development of white patches. The patches can appear anywhere on your body, depending on where the fungus grows. The white patches seen i... Read more about white patchescauses

Medical Reviewer: William C. Lloyd III, MD, FACS Last Annual Review Date: Sep 20, 2013 Copyright: © Copyright 2014 Health Grades, Inc. All rights reserved. May not be reproduced or reprinted without permission from Health Grades, Inc. Use of this information is governed by the HealthGrades User Agreement.

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