What are white spots on skin?

White spots on your skin are areas that appear lighter than your normal skin color. They are usually harmless and caused by the sun.
White spots on your skin are areas that appear lighter than your normal skin color. They are usually harmless and caused by the sun.

Have you ever noticed white spots on your skin? While they may be caused by a more serious skin condition, most of the time they are harmless and caused by sun exposure. This condition is called idiopathic guttate hypomelanosis and is benign. 

White spots on the skin appear lighter than your normal skin color. Most of the time we think sun exposure causes extra melanin production and brown spots or a tan to form on the skin. However, exposure to the sun can also cause the skin to stop producing melanin, which causes white spots in those areas.

Sometimes white spots on the skin can also be caused by fungal infections, so it is wise to see your doctor to examine your skin.

Signs and symptoms of white spots on skin

You may not feel anything as white spots on your skin appear. However, signs of white spots on skin from sun exposure include:

  • Small spots that are lighter than your normal skin color
  • Round or oval-shaped spots
  • Irregular-shaped spots
  • Feathery-shaped spots
  • Petal-shaped spots that look like a flower
  • Spots on areas most exposed to sun, including arms, legs, and upper back
  • Spots 2 to 6 millimeters in size
  • Spots developing slowly over the years
  • Spots that do not have a pattern or grouping
  • Spots that do not change in size or go away once present
  • Spots that are typically smooth

These white spots on skin do not affect the hair follicle or cause the hair to lose its pigment. Also, spots affect men and women differently. For example, many women gain white spots on their skin at younger ages than men.

Most people with small white spots caused by the sun do not feel any symptoms as they develop. These spots are not itchy or inflamed, and are considered harmless. The risk of developing white sun spots increases with age and frequency of unprotected sun exposure. 

Causes of white spots on skin

While the exact cause of idiopathic guttate hypomelanosis is unknown, it is thought to be caused by a decrease in melanin production. Exposure to ultraviolet (UV) light causes damage to the skin cells that produce melanin, which gives skin its color. 

The decrease in melanin production may also be caused by structural differences in the skin. Idiopathic guttate hypomelanosis tends to run in families, so genetics may also play a role. 

Overall, research is still unclear about the exact cause, but sun exposure is thought to be the main factor.

When to see the doctor for white spots on skin

Most of the time, small white spots on the skin are caused by improper sun protection and are considered harmless. However, sometimes the spots may look like other skin conditions, and if so, it may be necessary to see your doctor.

You should see your doctor if the white spots on your skin:

  • Provide discomfort
  • Itch and are dry
  • Appear red or inflamed
  • Look like flaky patches that ooze or weep
  • Make you feel upset or distressed about your appearance

People who have one autoimmune disease are at risk of developing another. You should talk to your doctor if you have an autoimmune disorder to rule out the development of an autoimmune skin condition like vitiligo or eczema

People with allergies or asthma may be at risk for developing eczema, which causes dry, itchy, white patches of skin. If you have allergies or asthma and you develop these symptoms, you should see your doctor.

Diagnosis and tests for white spots on skin

Your doctor will diagnose your skin after discussing your personal and family medical history and examining your skin. 

Sometimes your doctor may want to do a biopsy of the area. This involves removing a sample of skin to study your skin cells. A doctor may look for a decrease in the amount of skin cells called melanocytes. However, this procedure is usually unnecessary.

Your doctor may also ask for your symptoms to rule out other skin conditions like a fungal infection or an autoimmune condition. 

Treatments for white spots on skin

Sun exposure that causes white spots on skin are generally considered harmless. However, some people find the spots visually unpleasant and ask their doctor for treatment. Your doctor may recommend different treatments, including:

Carbon dioxide lasers and cryotherapy may cause swelling and post-inflammatory hyperpigmentation, or darkening in the area. This may be long term and cause more skin problems. 

The best treatment for avoiding white sun spots on skin is to protect the skin from the sun. Wear sunscreen daily and avoid tanning beds.

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How do you get rid of bumps on your pubic area?

Most bumps on the pubic area probably don’t need treatment. Doctors may only treat the person for pain and other symptoms, or recommend steps to take care of the wound. However, testing for sexually transmitted infection is usually needed. Pimples or bumps around the pubic area are very common, but are often very uncomfortable and irritating. In the majority of cases, these bumps are not a cause for concern. Treatment of bumps on the pubic area depends on the cause of the bumps.

  • Keep note of the occurrence of pimples or bumps, along with any products, activities or other factors that may affect the genital area, including shaving.
  • Avoid using any scented/perfumed products that may come in contact with the genital area, including laundry detergents, soaps, lotions, or powders.  If this reduces occurrence, you may reintroduce slowly, being careful to notice any adverse reactions that may arise.
  • Gently wash the area daily with warm water and mild, unperfumed soap, or non-soap cleanser.
  • Avoid using any other cleaning products that could affect your pH balance, which can lead to infection.
  • Make sure to pat the area dry before you get dressed to prevent any bacterial or fungal growth.
  • Sometimes, a warm compress applied to the area that’s irritated or itching can help. Simply soak a small towel in warm water and squeeze it out before placing it on the skin. This treatment can be repeated several times daily.
  • Benzoyl peroxide may help treat public bumps. Medicated body wash with benzoyl peroxide can be helpful. People with sensitive skin should opt for a product with five percent or less benzoyl peroxide to prevent irritation. These washes can be used as maintenance before shaving.
  • Bumps due to sexually transmitted diseases may require antibiotic, antifungal or antiviral pills or injections. You should see a doctor for a diagnosis and to receive these treatments, and not attempt to self-treat.
  • You may need an injection or ointment to apply to bumps or ulcers caused by inflammatory conditions.
  • Dermatologists may recommend cortisone injections for severe or large bumps.
  • Doctors may give antihistamines to control itching.
  • Doctors may treat with topical medications (including antibacterial, antifungal, or antiviral topical creams/ointments and steroid creams/ointments).

What are the possible causes of bumps in the pubic area?

Possible causes of genital bumps may include:

  • Contact dermatitis: A type of eczema caused by skin-to-skin contact with an allergen or irritant.
  • Folliculitis: An infection and swelling of the hair follicles from which hair grows.
  • Acne inversa or hidradenitis suppurativa: A potentially severe skin disease that affects the sweat glands in the groin and is characterized by recurrent pimple-like bumps and sores that contain pus. The sores do not heal easily and can leave scars.
  • Molluscum contagiosum: A viral infection in the pubic area. Growths, called mollusca, are usually small, raised and white or flesh-colored. They can be pearly in appearance and have a dimple at their center.
  • Psoriasis: A potentially severe autoimmune condition that causes thick, scaly patches on the skin. According to the National Psoriasis Foundation, inverse psoriasis is a severe type that usually affects the pubic area.
  • Genital herpes: Caused by herpes simplex virus (HSV). It can lead to lesions that are painful or itchy, and can be transmitted to others even when not visible.
  • Genital warts: Caused by the human papilloma virus, or HPV. They are flesh-colored, soft bumps, and sometimes look like cauliflower. While they may be itchy, they don’t hurt. Warts can sometimes go away without treatment, or your doctor can treat them. HPV is a very common virus, so common that nearly all sexually active people are expected to get it at least once in their lifetimes.

Apart from the above, other sexually transmitted infections, bacteria and yeast may be responsible for bumps on the pubic area.

When to see your doctor

Occasional bumps in the pubic area are somewhat common, often with fairly innocuous causes. Although these bumps are not typically painful, they might cause pain or bleeding when they grow too large, in addition to increasing the risk of infection. As such, anyone who develops bumps should see a doctor to ensure that they are not at risk for a serious condition. You must see your doctor if your bumps:

  • Bleed
  • Have a foul-smelling or unusual discharge
  • Are painful for you
  • Do not go away or keep coming back
  • Are associated with fever

Bumps on the pubic area may be caused by various factors. These include unsafe shaving techniques, infections, and skin conditions such as psoriasis or eczema. Sometimes, a home remedy, over the counter (OTC) cream or simple lifestyle changes can help you manage itching. However, you should talk to your doctor if itching and bumps don’t diminish, or you suspect an underlying medical condition might be causing your symptoms.

It is important to monitor your genital health because bumps appearing on or around the pubic area could be indicative of a condition that requires medical attention, such as an infection. Spotting them as soon as they occur is ideal, so you can seek appropriate medical attention when necessary.

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Medically Reviewed on 4/13/2022
References
SOURCES:

American Osteopathic College of Dermatology: "IDIOPATHIC GUTTATE HYPOMELANOSIS."

National Health Service: "Overview – Atopic eczema."

National Health Service: "Overview – Vitiligo."

StatPearls: "Idiopathic Guttate Hypomelanosis."

Planned Parenthood: "What's That Bump?"

DermNet NZ: "Genital Skin Problems."

CDC: "Human Papillomavirus (HPV) Statistics."