White spots on my arms – is it vitiligo?

white spots on arms, face or legs - vitiligo or tinea versicolor?

Have you experienced, as you were looking at your face in the mirror,  a small white speck at the side of your mouth? Perhaps you didn’t give much thought to it, thinking it’s just something trivial. However, a few weeks later you see that white speck turn into a white spot. If that white spot turns into a much-bigger white spot much later, perhaps it’s time to for a visit to a dermatologist’s office and have yourself checked for vitiligo.

Vitiligo is a skin disorder that is characterized by white patches of skin, which occur because that area has lost its pigment. In many cases, these white patches become bigger. For some, the depigmentation spreads fast and wide until their skin is entirely white. There is no definitive way to tell the speed or degree of its progress though.

Vitiligo or tinea versicolor?

That white spot, however, can also be mistaken for other skin conditions, tinea versicolor in particular. Both are chronic skin conditions, and are characterized by a certain degree of discoloration of the affected area. They are also fortunately not contagious. The major similarities, however, end there. Vitiligo and tinea versicolor are different in so many ways.

Vitiligo, for one, is widely regarded as an autoimmune disease, although many studies suggest that nutritional deficiencies, heredity, trauma and too much stress may also give rise to the condition. Tinea versicolor, on the other hand is essentially a fungal skin infection. Fungi are part of our normal skin flora, but when the Malassezia globosa fungus grows out of control, it leads to tinea versicolor.

Even the major similarity between the two skin conditions differ in one aspect. While vitiligo sufferers only have white patches on their skin because of depigmentation, the spots that mark tinea versicolor can also be white, pink, red, or brown in color. The white patches of vitiligo generally do not cause any physical discomfort, while the spots of tinea versicolor, which is actually more of a rash, can be dry, scaly and itchy.

The white patches of vitiligo are also commonly found in sun-exposed areas of the skin, particularly the face, hands and feet, although they can also appear in the armpits, the groin and genital areas. The rash that characterizes tinea versicolor, meanwhile, tends to appear on the upper trunk of the body. People of any age may develop vitiligo, while tinea versicolor affects teenagers and young adults more commonly.

Topical antifungal creams, lotions or shampoos containing selenium sulfide, miconazole, clotrimazole, terbinafine and other substances are often recommended for use in treating tinea versicolor. Doctors may also recommend antifungal pills for more severe cases. Vitiligo patients, for their part, undergo such treatments such as photot

herapy, skin grafting, depigmentation or corticosteroid creams and ointments to treat their condition. They can also resort to cosmetic solutions in order to make their skin look normal and even. There are also several natural treatments for vitiligo.

Only a dermatologist will be able to tell with any certainty what your condition is, so waste no time in dropping by the doctor’s office and having yourself checked.

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