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What Are the Causes of White Spots on Tan Skin?

by
author image Gianna Rose
Gianna Rose is a registered nurse certified in hospice and palliative care, as well as a certified wellness coach. She completed Duke Integrative Medicine's Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction course in 2009. Rose also holds a Bachelor of Fine Arts from the Savannah College of Art and Design.
What Are the Causes of White Spots on Tan Skin?
A tan makes white spots on the skin more noticeable. Photo Credit tanned girl sitting in the sun image by Melissa Schalke from <a href='http://www.fotolia.com'>Fotolia.com</a>

White spots on the skin become more noticeable with a tan, leading sufferers to search for the cause. Usually, white spots are not a reason for serious concern, according to MayoClinic.com. A variety of skin disorders can produce white spots on the skin. Consultation with a dermatologist can help determine the cause of the white spots, and the appropriate treatment.

Vitiligo

Vitiligo causes the skin to lose melanocytes, or pigment-producing cells that give the skin color. It is characterized by white spots that stand out in sharp contrast to surrounding skin, says Merck Manual Professional Edition. Vitiligo may produce just a few spots in one area, affect one part of the body, or, rarely, affect almost the entire surface of the skin. Vitiligo most often occurs on the face, fingers, backs of the hands, elbows, knees, shins and feet. The cause is unknown, although it is suspected to be an autoimmune disorder. Vitiligo can cause significant psychological distress, especially in dark-skinned people. There is no cure, Merck says. Treatment can include avoidance of tanning, topical medications, various light-wave therapies, depigmentation or tattooing to add color to affected areas.

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Tinea Versicolor

Tinea versicolor is a fungal infection that interferes with pigment cells in the skin, producing white spots. Sufferers will notice small white, scaly spots that may itch. The spots can also be pink, tan or brown, according to MayoClinic.com. Tinea versicolor is most commonly found on the back, chest and neck. Teenagers and young adults are most commonly affected. Although this fungus is usually present on healthy skin, factors such as humidity, excess sweating and a weakened immune system can cause it to overgrow. Certain over-the-counter anti fungal creams or shampoos are usually an effective treatment, but severe or persistent cases may require prescription-strength topical or oral medications. The spots may last for several weeks after the fungus is eradicated.

Poikiloderma of Civatte

Poikiloderma of Civatte is a chronic skin condition caused by sun damage, according to Skinsight. It is non-cancerous, and occurs most frequently in fair-skinned adults. White patches with a lacy appearance form on the neck and chest, along with darker areas and redness. Poikiloderma of Civatte is a cosmetic disorder that does not require treatment. To prevent it from worsening, sufferers can wear protective clothing or sunscreen. Laser therapy may make this condition less noticeable.

Lichen Sclerosus

Lichen sclerosus is a disorder that begins with small, smooth and shiny white spots on the skin. The areas most commonly affected are the genital and anal area, but it can also occur on the upper body and breasts, according to the National Institutes of Arthritis and Muskuloskeletal and Skin Diseases. The white spots grow larger and become fragile, causing tears and bruises. Itching is common. Other symptoms include pain, bleeding and blistering. Lichen sclerosus is not contagious. Its cause is unknown. Lichen sclerosus is treated if it occurs in the genital area, because it can lead to problems with sex and urination. Strong anti-inflammatory creams treat the disorder. Circumcision usually resolves the condition in men.

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