Do you have small white spots on your legs? Unless they are a source of discomfort and psychological distress, these spots or patchy pigments are nothing to worry about.
Some cases of hypopigmented spots may initially manifest as dots before they worsen or become large white blotches. Gain more insight and knowledge to tell if these spots and skin cancer have any association.
What are these little white colored spots on the shin of my legs? Does sunbathing or skin tanning lead to the formation of hypopigmented spots on skin? White spots on your legs may appear as light-colored oval-shaped or irregular patchy pigments as revealed by pictures.
1. Idiopathic gestate hypomelanosis
IGH is an acquired and harmless skin disorder characterized by diffuse (spread) white spots, especially on sun-exposed areas. These spots may be described the nature of being in “multiple, discrete round or oval, porcelain-white macules on sun-exposed areas, especially on the extensor surface of forearms and pretibial areas.” [ncbi.nlm.nih.gov]. Pretibial area simply refers to the area of leg in front of tibia bone. The following pictures present the appearance of Idiopathic Guttate Hypomelanosis (IGH) on legs and arms.
IGH is known to affect many people in the 40s (years) or above due to its likelihood to occur with aging hence sometimes referred to as ‘white age spots,’
Idiopathic guttate hypomelanosis treatment
Despite the fact that IGH does not have any health-related concerns or issues, some individuals consider treatment for the cosmetic reasons. Basically, this skin disorder has no standard therapy but there are a good number of medical and surgical procedures with considerably mixed results post-treatment.
Cosmetic or surgical procedures include microdermabrasion or superficial dermabrasion, cryotherapy, skin grafting, and non-ablative laser treatments.
Topical treatments which include the application of intralesional corticosteroids, topical retinoid, topical Calcineurin inhibitors, phenol peeling, have also been tested and said to produce substantial results.
Nevertheless, Idiopathic guttate hypomelanosis is not related to cancer. Neither are these white macules a predisposing factor to cancerous skin conditions. However, it is important to get a regular checkup before getting treatment.
2. Tinea versicolor
Tinea versicolor is a fungal infection which affects the skin at large. The fungus or yeast responsible is found living in human skin – the Malassezia species. Commonly affecting populations in the tropical regions, this infection is superficial and neither causes pain (painless) or spread from one person to the other.
How does tinea versicolor result in white colored spots on the skin? The yeast (Malassezia sp.) produces a substance that affects the production of melanin. Although they can remain visible even after treatment, this is just a temporal depigmentation since the infection can be controlled. In dark black skin, the hypopigmented (whitish) spots are more visible and do NOT tan in normal circumstances.
Who is at risk of Tinea versicolor? As mentioned people living in the tropics are more affected. Clinical observations have indicated that it can occur across all races of either sex. Moreover, it is worth noting that its occurrence is increasingly reported with the following factors.
- Individuals with naturally oily skin,
- If you are sweating excessively or more often,
- Influence or using certain medications e.g. Cortisone
- Patients who are on immune-suppressing medications or treatments
Common areas of the body affected are the neck, upper chest and back, tummy or abdomen and thighs esp. the upper thighs.
3. After tanning
Sun tanning beds or tanning beds or booths are used to get a cosmetically tanned skin (darkened). What happens after tanning your skin is that the white spots are more likely to become more noticeable on condition that you have the hypopigmented spots in the skin. After tanning some skin conditions which can produce more visible of these spots, blotches or white skin pigments include the following.
a. Lichen Sclerosus
This is a long-term skin problem that causes thin white skin patches that mostly affects the genital area but can affect any part of the skin. It is more common in women in post-menopausal though anyone can become a victim of Lichen Sclerosus.
No one really knows the causes so far. Mild cases of lichen sclerosus produce no symptoms. However, if or when they occur, this condition is symptomatic of the following signs:
- They are smooth (anywhere on body)
- Severe itching which causes discomfort or pain
- Tearing or skin bruising
- Patches of wrinkled skin where it occurs
- Pain during intercourse
- Sometimes bleeding may occur with blistering
b. Skin sensitivity
An increased sensitivity in the skin itself can lead to the formation of white looking spots on the skin. In addition, certain medications can produce reactions which will trigger and heighten skin sensitivity.
c. Scar tissues
The areas of skin where forms of scarring have occurred lack melanin. Scar tissues or scarring may result from an injury to skin, surgery, and bites from insects etc.
d. Tinea versicolor
Tinea versicolor does not tan after sunburn because the sun’s rays do not penetrate the skin area affected by the yeast. Tinea Versicolor as an infection can come and go. This fungal infection can be preventable if adequate measures to combat the sweating
Vitiligo is an autoimmune trigger disorder which results in the destruction of skin pigment cells or melanocytes. This destruction of melanocyte cells is what leads to loss of pigment and hence white patchy spots. Initially, the patches are usually small but can increase and occupy over a large area of skin in no definite pattern
These white patches on skin spots have sharp margins and are more visible in dark-skinned people than those with a lighter skin.
4. Blood circulation
What linkage is there between blood circulation and pigmentation? Does a flaw in blood circulation have anything to do with it? Poor blood circulation in the lower quarter of the body is largely associated with coronary thrombosis. Unfortunately, a good number of people who are inclined to a similar perception have ended up in dilemma or thinking it is a mystery, if not wondering what the real issue is.
i. Venous pooling
According to insightful explanations by medical doctors from Med Help Organization, the appearance on “upper legs and thigh could then be having relatively less blood supply which can appear as white spots,” asserts Dr. Kokil Mathur. Venous pooling can occur after standing for long or sitting for longer durations. It is not only just that but in essence, people who experience this have faulty valves in their veins which are part of the vascular system comprising the arteries, veins, and capillaries.
Venous pooling is mainly attributed to the deep veins whose main function is moving deoxygenated blood back to the heart. Always check this with your doctor to avoid drawing wrong and perceived misconceptions about venous pooling.
ii. Bier spots – hypopigmented macules on hands and legs
Secondly, we have bier spots presented as small, light macules usually found on the arms and legs of young adults. The macules are characterized by irregular borders. According to a study case by the Indian Dermatology Online Journal, the light macules are more marked over palms. The report also notes that they tend to become more prominent when the hands are in free position, which is, hanging freely without any support.
The cases under study are reportedly not genetic even though these cases are of Chinese origin. However, some dermatologists have considered it to be a physiological response to venous hypertension or insufficiency or vasoconstriction of small blood vessels.
These spots are clinically considered a benign physiologic vascular anomaly which should not cause much worry and may not necessitate treatment.
NOTE: If Bier spots, insomnia and tachycardia occur together (which is rare) the association is referred to as Marshall White syndrome which is uncommon too.
5. Light lesions or Pityriasis Alba
Although less common in legs, Pityriasis Alba is another benign skin disorder responsible for the appearance of hypopigmented or light colored spots. Common in children and young people, the slight spots are oval or round in shape which are sometimes flaky or smooth.
The exact causes still remain unclear. Pityriasis Alba has been theorized as being self-limiting whose effects on the skin are not long term. It is a non-contagious and non-malignant disorder.
During summer, the lesions become lesser and lesser pigmented due to the influence of the sun rays.
In addition to the factors discussed, pregnancy comes with many changes inside the body which may surface through the skin. Women should aggressively strive to go for a regular checkup during pregnancy period whether they are doing fairly well or not.
However, something to mark here is increased the release of more body sebum as attributed to shifts in hormone concentration. As we noted earlier, this is one of the risk factors for Tinea versicolor.
Bumpy or Raised ones
Whether they are small or tiny bumps those white raised spots on the skin could be due to a number of reasons.
Molluscum Contagiosum white small bumps
These bumps are caused by a virus. They appear shiny little flesh-colored, white or pinkish bumps filled with a waxy material. Molluscum contagiosum virus which is responsible for these bumps are usually painless and may come in various shapes according to where they occur in the skin.
Keratosis Pilaris – Scaly white spots or bumps
Keratosis pilaris is another harmless condition characterized by light-colored small, hard bumps with sandpaper feeling. Sometimes they may look scaly if particularly when you try scratching or rubbing. Unlike Molluscum contagiosum, Keratosis pilaris is caused by a buildup of keratin in the skin.
- After shaving or hair removal form legs
How to get rid of white spots on legs
Treating them can be selective given that there are a number of factors and skin conditions that are responsible for their formation. In some cases, diagnosis is necessary if medical treatments are required to get depigmentation under control. It is also crucial in helping to identify and differentiate what really those causes are and this permits a correct or more appropriate form of cure.
Always keep in mind that some conditions don’t require treatment but one should remain vigilant and keep an eye to keep track of any abnormality or uncommon symptoms.
After prognosis and once your doctor confirms what the causes of white spots on your legs are, he or she will prescribe topical treatments applied locally. There are two major forms of treatments available i.e. external creams and oral medications.
If the cause is an infection like Tinea versicolor, application of antifungal creams, lotions or shampooing are amongst the common treatments. They include
- Selenium Sulfide lotion or shampoo, Pyrithione Zinc shampoo. These two are applied externally overnight. Patients are encouraged to do regular body cleaning before and after applying especially if they sweat more frequently.
- Antifungal cream or lotions. They may be acquired over the counter but it is recommended that patients seek medication from a clinic or health centers. Examples are as Ketoconazole, Econazole, Oxiconazole, or Ciclopirox
- Antifungal oral pills which must be taken under a medical practitioner instructions or as per a doctor’s prescription. They include Ketoconazole, Fluconazole, or Itraconazole.
With the growing resistance of infection causing micro-organisms to some treatments, recurrence of Tinea Versicolor is possible. This is a high time for affected persons to adopt suitable preventive measures in addition to receiving treatments.
Boost blood circulation
Finding ways to promote a good blood flow is healthy not only for preventing coronary thrombosis but also for proper function of vital body organs that regulate other body processes. How can you achieve this? (Before then, it is a great idea to talk to your health physic.) Some are outlined as follows.
- Movements to allow muscular contraction
- Upward massage of legs which initiates ‘milking the veins’ hence facilitating circulation
- Experts recommend use of compression stockings which is a good start and move
In addition to these physical strategies, you should go for blood pressure checking, thyroid testing among other diabetic tests.
Medical procedures and treatments
Though some spots on your legs are harmless, these spots sometimes act as a limiting factor to enjoying fashion in clothing or what you like wearing. Medical treatments are optional and are majorly considered cosmetic but best available options for certain skin conditions and disorders. Before you decide to go for medical procedures consider talking to your dermatologist.
- Dermabrasion or microdermabrasion
- Laser ablation
- Chemical peels
Suitability of a medical treatment rely on the causes and consider the effects likely to come after undergoing treatment. It is worth noting that some of these treatments are more likely to worsen the appearance or skin condition in question.
You may also try a few natural procedures and home remedies for white skin patches to help control them. If you still seem to be baffled and do not know what to do then, consider concealers by practicing safe cosmetic beauty.
Could they be signs of skin cancer?
Are you worried that you may be developing a skin cancer? Well, there are few manifestations in skin that will indicate signs of developing skin cancer or increase the risks of skin cancer. One of the most common is sunbathing. Moles and warts have an equally susceptible tendency to develop to cancer (precancerous) but not all moles or warts are forms of skin cancer since some are benign skin growths.
Cancer symptoms of skin vary depending on what the trigger factors are. While some cancerous growths may spread and increase in size, basal cell carcinoma never spreads.
Mutations and genetic defects especially at birth that can cause an anomaly in cellular function would lead to malignant tumors. Tanning beds have the capacity to cause mutations. If you doubt any cancer symptoms and think you may be a skin cancer victim, the only best thing to do is to go for diagnosis.
The common types of skin cancer include melanoma, solar keratosis, basal cell carcinoma, Merkel Cell carcinoma and squamous cell carcinoma.
When to see your doctor
Certain conditions associated with white spots on legs, hands, and arms or anywhere in the skin would improve on their own without treatment. Some conditions may get worse without causing health-related concerns. However, if you feel that you need to get rid of the problem you should talk to your dermatologist or consult a doctor prior to treatment.
Can you prevent white spots on skin? Prevention is more of personal or self-care but some skin conditions like Vitiligo cannot be prevented. For example use of broad-spectrum sunscreen, avoiding atmospheres and areas with high humidity or hot temperatures reduces chances of Tinea versicolor. Prevention where possible is crucial when treatments cannot serve to get rid of the white patches or depigmented skin spots.
Reference and Cited Sources