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Definition

Pityriasis alba is a common skin disorder similar to very mild eczema, causing round or oval, colorless, finely scaled patches of skin. Pityriasis alba is a chronic skin disorder that affects some children usually between the ages of 6 to 12. The patches are dry with very fine scales. Varying from 1 to 2 inches in diameter, they are most common on the face (cheeks), neck, upper trunk, and upper arms of children.

Causes

The cause of pityriasis alba is unknown. It may have to do with dry skin or chemicals that come in contact with the skin. It is frequently seen in people who have a personal or family history of asthma, allergies, or atopic eczema. It may resemble a fungus infection of the skin, but it is unrelated. Pityriasis alba is most noticeable in the summertime when the surrounding skin gets tanner, because it remains the same color.

Symptoms

Children with this extremely common condition develop uneven, round or oval patches after sun exposure. The patches are dry with very fine scales. Varying 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 16 years old. At times the rash is enclosed by a very fine skin flakes which resemble a light dust. At times this disease can be confused with tinea versicolor which is an autoimmune response to a fungus on the skin.

Treatment

No treatment is necessary, but a moisturizing cream may improve the dry appearance. If the patches are red or itchy, a mild topical steroid cream can be applied for a few days. No treatment is necessary, but a moisturizing cream may improve the dry appearance. If the patches are red or itchy, a mild topical steroid cream can be applied for a few days.

Once the patches has returned to normal, use skin lotions and moisturizers to help to decrease the chance that patches will return. Do not use 1% hydrocortisone cream on the face for long periods of time (months) without first talking with your child's health care provider.

Even when the condition is effectively treated, the white patches will remain for a while. At least several weeks must pass for the newly healthy skin to adjust its color to the amount of ongoing sunlight exposure, so that it will match the surrounding skin. One percent hydrocortisone cream available over the counter should be applied once to twice a day to the affected areas.

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