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Skin Discoloration in Children

By Lindsay Tadlock ; Updated August 14, 2017

Skin discoloration in children is not life-threatening. It's due to a disruption of the pigmentation of the skin that may be a small patch or may cover a large portion of your child's body.


Tinea versicolor is a common fungal infection of the skin. This fungus disrupts the normal pigmentation of the skin, resulting in small, discolored patches. Vitiligo is a condition in which the skin loses melanin. Melanin is the pigment that determines the skin color. When the cells that produce melanin die or no longer form melanin, vitiligo occurs. This results in white patches on the skin.


Tinea versicolor usually affects the back, neck, chest and upper arms. It can be white, pink, dark brown or tan and appears as small, scaly patches. These patches grow slowly and tend to become more noticeable after sun exposure. This condition is common in teens and young adults.

The most common symptom of vitiligo is white patches on the skin. This skin condition usually develops first on sun-exposed areas of the skin, such as the hands, arms, feet, and face. It usually appears between ages 10 and 30. There are three patterns of vitiligo: focal, in which the depigmentation is limited to one or a few areas of the body; segmental, in which the loss of skin color only occurs on one side of the body; and generalized, in which the pigment loss is across many parts of the body.

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Tinea versicolor is caused by a fungus on the skin surface. It can be caused by hot or humid weather, excessive sweating, hormonal changes and oily skin. According to MayoClinic.com, doctors theorize vitiligo may be caused by an immune system disorder or may be hereditary.


Treatment for tinea versicolor includes the use of antifungal creams, shampoos and lotions. Skin color may remain uneven for a few weeks until repigmenation occurs. In warm, humid weather this bacteria may return, even after treatment.

There is no cure for vitiligo, but treatment may stop or slow the pigment loss. Topical corticosteroid therapy treatment may help return the skin color to normal if started early in the disease. Protect the skin from the sun to avoid a contrast between normal and depigmented skin.


See your doctor if your child shows signs of skin discoloration. If the discoloration is due to a fungus, the doctor can treat your child. If it's due to vitiligo, early detection may help reduce the effects.

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