Pityriasis alba

Author: A/Prof Amanda Oakley, Dermatologist, Hamilton, New Zealand, 1997. Updated January 2016.

What is pityriasis alba?

Pityriasis alba is a low-grade type of eczema/dermatitis that primarily affects children.

The name refers to its appearance: pityriasis refers to its characteristic fine scale, and alba to its pale colour (hypopigmentation).

Who gets pityriasis alba?

Pityriasis alba is common worldwide with a prevalence in children of around 5%.

What causes pityriasis alba?

The cause of pityriasis alba is unknown.

Researchers have not reached any conclusions about the relationship of pityriasis alba to the following:

What are the clinical features of pityriasis alba?

Classic pityriasis alba usually presents with 1 to 20 patches or thin plaques.

Typically, each area of pityriasis alba goes through several stages.

  1. Slightly scaly pink plaque with just palpable papular surface
  2. Hypopigmented plaque with fine surface scale
  3. Then post-inflammatory hypopigmented macule without scale
  4. Resolution

See more images of pityriasis alba ...

Complications of pityriasis alba

None are known.

How is pityriasis alba diagnosed?

Pityriasis alba can be confused with several other disorders that cause hypopigmentation.

To exclude these, investigations may include:

What is the treatment for pityriasis alba?

No treatment is necessary for asymptomatic pityriasis alba.

How can pityriasis alba be prevented?

The development or prominence of pityriasis alba can be reduced by avoiding exposure to sunlight.

What is the outlook for pityriasis alba?

Pityriasis clears up after a few months, or in some cases persists for up to two or three years. The colour gradually returns completely to normal.

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