Pityriasis alba is a skin condition that affects children. It's characterized by hypopigmented patches on the skin, which may cause cosmetic concerns. Here are three things parents need to know about pityriasis alba.
What are the signs of pityriasis alba?
If your child develops pityriasis alba, you'll see hypopigmented patches on their skin. Hypopigmented is a medical term that refers to a loss of skin color. These patches tend to be slightly scaly and are often seen on highly-visible areas like the face or neck.
If your child spends a lot of time outdoors and gets a suntan, you'll notice that their hypopigmented patches are more noticeable. This is because these patches don't darken in response to the sun while the rest of their skin does.
What causes pityriasis alba?
The exact cause of pityriasis alba isn't known. Many children with this condition also have an atopic background, meaning that they've had hay fever, asthma or atopic dermatitis in the past or currently have one of those conditions. Environmental factors like cold weather and dry skin have also been linked to this condition. Nutritional deficiencies—like anemia—may also contribute to the development of pityriasis alba.
Can pityriasis alba be treated?
Usually, pityriasis alba goes away on its own during puberty, but some children will still have the condition when they're adults. The condition is benign, so if your child isn't bothered by the appearance of their lesions, there's no reason to seek treatment. However, if your child feels self-conscious about their discolored skin, seek help from a pediatrician.
Topical steroids can be used to help speed up the repigmentation of the skin. Long-term use of steroids can thin the skin, so the pediatrician will prescribe low-potency steroids and your child won't be able to use them for long.
Both tacrolimus ointments and pimecrolimus creams have been reported to produce good results. Both of these drugs are immunosuppressants. Emollient creams can also be used to moisturize the skin and reduce symptoms. Your child's pediatrician can recommend an appropriate emollient cream.
Avoiding sun exposure is also important since the hypopigmented patches won't tan and will become more noticeable if the rest of the skin is tanned. Whenever your child goes outside, make sure they're wearing sunscreen as well as protective clothing (like long-sleeved shirts, pants, and sun hats).
Pediatricians may be able to help with pityriasis alba, so seek professional assistance as soon as possible.