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What are the causes of dry white patches of skin with itching?

Updated February 21, 2017

Suddenly discovering an itchy white rash on your skin can be alarming. Itchy white patches of skin can occur in almost any place on the body, and could be the result of one of several conditions. Most causes of itchy patches are treatable, though some indicate a chronic problem. Knowing the possible causes of these white patches can help sufferers make the right decisions about management and treatment.

Tinea Versicolor

Tinea versicolor is a fungal infection which causes discoloured patches on the skin. These are usually pale, but may also be dark. The disease is most common in young adults and teenagers, according to the Mayo Clinic, and may become more obvious when the skin is exposed to the sun. The skin patches may have a scaly texture, tend to grow slowly and may produce mild itching. They are most likely to appear on the neck, chest, back and upper arms, and appear primarily in hot, humid weather. Tinea versicolor can be treated with anti-fungal medications.

Lichen Sclerosus

Lichen sclerosus is an uncommon condition characterised by thin, patchy white skin. It may appear on any part of the body, but is most common on the skin around the genitals and anus. According to the Mayo Clinic, post-menopausal women are most likely to suffer from this problem. This condition may cause severe itching and tenderness, and the patches of skin may bruise or tear easily. Lichen sclerosus may also make sexual activity difficult or painful. Doctors don't currently know what causes this condition, but it may be related to a hormonal or immune imbalance. Treatment includes corticosteroid creams and ointments.

Eczema

Also known as atopic dermatitis, eczema is a chronic condition that often accompanies hay fever and asthma. According to the Mayo Clinic, this condition usually appears in childhood, and often disappears by early adulthood. Some people continue to suffer from eczema throughout their lives, however. Eczema produces small, pale raised bumps, thickened skin, and patches of red to light brownish-grey skin, which may itch severely. Eczema sufferers may itch more at night. The condition is thought to be caused by an immune problem, and may be aggravated by environmental conditions and stress.

Psoriasis

Psoriasis affects the life cycle of skin cells, causing dead cells to build up rapidly on the skin's surface. These produce a silvery, scaly appearance, itching, and sometimes pain and redness. This condition is chronic and incurable, though it may go into remission. Psoriasis may appear on any part of the body, including the nails and scalp, and is thought to be caused by an immune dysfunction. Treatment involves topical corticosteroids, retinoids and other creams and ointments. People with psoriasis may also use light therapy and oral medications to control their itching and pain.

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About the Author

G.D. Palmer is a freelance writer and illustrator living in Milwaukee, Wis. She has been producing print and Web content for various organizations since 1998 and has been freelancing full-time since 2007. Palmer holds a Bachelor of Arts degree in writing and studio art from Beloit College in Beloit, Wis.