Pityriasis Alba & Skin Pigmentation

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Pityriasis alba is a disorder which is most often seen in children. It is unknown what the causes of the disease are. Pityriasis alba results in scaly patches of skin. When these scaly patches clear up, a pigmented area is left. Eventually this will return back to normal skin colour.

Why does pityriasis alba cause pigmentation changes?

Changes in pigmentation are caused by pityriasis alba because there is a failure to transfer melanin between different melanin containing cells. It is found, in people with pityriasis alba, that the affected areas have decreased numbers of pigment containing cells that may also be reduced in size. Whilst the exact cause of this disorder is unknown, a number of risk factors are known, such as sun exposure, poor hygiene and some environmental conditions. These risk factors make it more likely that you will get the disease.

What does pityriasis alba look like?

The initial patches caused by pityriasis alba are round, oval or irregular in shape and red or pink in colour. They are also usually scaly and are between 0.5 and 2cm wide. In children, these patches are usually found only on the face and in particular the mouth, chin and cheeks.

When these scaly areas have cleared up, a pigmented area is left. These pigmented areas are usually blue in the middle and surrounded by an area of scaly lighter coloured skin.

Who can get pityriasis alba?

It unknown how many people are currently affected by pityriasis alba. A study carried out in tropical regions showed that around 1 in 10 children aged 3-16 years old had the disease.

Pityriasis alba can affect people of any race but is usually more noticeable in those with dark skin. Men are most often affected by this disorder but it can affect females as well.

Is pityriasis alba dangerous?

Usually, lesions caused by pityriasis alba are harmless. The disorder is usually most noticeable in people with dark skin or after tanning in the sun. It is most often found in the summer because sun exposure is strongly linked with developing the disorder. The length of time for which pityriasis alba lasts is between several months to over a year.

How is pityriasis alba treated?

Usually pityriasis alba does not require treatment and clears up of its own accord. An emollient cream can be applied. This includes aqueous creams like Curel, Ceaphil, Nivea and Lubriderm. If the area is inflamed than hydrocortisone can be applied and this can be bought over the counter. If this doesn’t work then tacrolimus ointment can be used that suppresses the immune response.

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