Patches are spots of skin that are lighter or
darker than your regular skin color. Patches may also have a red, purple, or
blue tint. Patches may be confused with macules, but macules are very small and
are usually less than 1 centimeter wide. Birthmarks, vitiligo, and hemophilia
are all examples of patches.
Causes Patches to Form?
Patches on the skin are usually the same
texture as the surrounding skin and are typically flat. However, patches are
sometimes rougher than the surrounding skin, depending on their cause.
Common conditions that cause patches include:
- eczema (a chronic skin condition
that causes scaly, itchy patches, sometimes caused by allergies)
- vitiligo (a skin condition that
causes white patches)
- psoriasis (an autoimmune disease
where the immune system attacks skin cells)
- liver spots (dark patches
associated with aging and sun exposure)
- skin moles
Some conditions of the skin can cause dry
patches to form. This may result in raised, inflamed areas of skin with a rough
Rashes and hives, often caused by allergies,
can also cause patches to appear on the skin.
Patches Are the Sign of Something Serious
Make sure to report any unexplained bruising on
your skin, or patches that itch or leak fluid to your doctor. Seek medical
attention immediately if you develop patches after coming into contact with a
known allergen (such as dairy, tree nuts, or peanuts). A severe allergic
reaction often starts as a patch or two, but can quickly develop into a medical
Symptoms of a severe allergic reaction
- difficulty breathing
- facial swelling
- swelling around the eyes
- swelling in the throat or mouth
- rapid breathing
- weak pulse
Seek medical attention immediately if you
experience any of the symptoms. Untreated severe allergic reactions can lead to
anaphylactic shock. This condition can be deadly.
Are Patches Diagnosed?
Your doctor may be able to diagnose what
caused your skin patches upon physical examination. However, this is not always
possible. In some cases, you will be referred to a skin specialist called
a dermatologist. A
dermatologist will examine the skin, note any symptoms you have been
experiencing, take down your medical history, and may take a sample of the
patch to determine its cause.
Some allergic reactions are not emergencies. You
may be referred to an allergist if you develop raised, itchy patches after
eating a specific food or after coming into contact with a known allergen. An
allergist will perform an allergen test to determine if the patches are caused
by an allergic reaction and what items might be causing it.
Either your doctor or dermatologist can take
a biopsy of your patches to help make a diagnosis if they cannot determine a
cause just by examination. A biopsy involves taking a sample of the tissue and
sending it to a lab to be tested.
In some cases, the cause of your patches
cannot be determined by a biopsy or a skin sample alone. In this case, a blood
test may be needed to determine the cause. A blood sample can show evidence of
infection, autoimmune disorders, or blood disorders.
Are Patches Treated?
will discuss treatment options with you once they have determined what is
causing your skin patches.
patches are raised, inflamed, and itchy as in a mild allergic reaction, your
doctor may suggest using over-the-counter anti-itch medication such as
cortisone cream. This medication can work to relieve the itching and reduce
inflammation. You will also be warned to stay away from the allergen that
caused your reaction in order to prevent future problems.
may give you a medication to carry with you to prevent life-threatening
symptoms from occurring when coming into contact with the allergen in the
future. This is usually given in the form of an injection of epinephrine with
patches are due to extremely dry skin, using over-the-counter products
formulated for eczema or psoriasis may help. In some cases, these medications
are not strong enough, so your doctor will prescribe an oral medication to
treat it or a prescription-strength cream like pimecrolimus (Elidel) or calcipotriene
You may be given an antifungal cream to treat
the infection if the patches are due to a fungal infection such as ringworm. An
over-the-counter antifungal cream often works well to treat ringworm and
Patches caused by vitiligo may be treatable
in the early stages of the condition. Treatment options include:
- corticosteroid cream
- corticosteroid ointment
- immunosuppressant cream
- skin grafts
These patches can be covered using body
makeup. Use sunscreen when going outside to avoid sunburn on the vitiligo
Patches due to blood disorders or other
medical conditions will be treated according to the condition. This may include
a mixture of both topical and oral medications.
Some patches have unknown causes. Your doctor
will help you manage the symptoms of these patches.