A chronic condition like vitiligo can seriously affect the quality of a person’s life. Although the major effects of vitiligo involve changes in the person’s appearance, it indirectly impacts their social life as well. Some people can let the condition limit them and reduce their social interactions, others embrace it and make it their unique selling proposition—models who have vitiligo are an example.
Learning about a health condition can be helpful to people as having clear answers make them feel somewhat in control. Knowing vitiligo causes and preventions can help a person manage their condition and stop the white patches from spreading further. Let’s start with a small overview of the condition.
What is vitiligo?
Vitiligo is an autoimmune disease that causes depigmented patches or spots to appear on a person’s body. Usually, these white depigmented patches, also known as macules, start small and first appear on the face, hands, or feet. Macules also cause the hair in that region to lose its colour and become white/silver/grey. People with vitiligo may also develop depigmentation in the mucosal glands such as the mouth, nose, or ear; however, this is very rare.
Vitiligo is not a severe health condition; it affects the appearance of a person. The affected areas become quite sensitive, especially to sunlight. Vitiligo can develop in people of any race or gender; it is likely to develop before an individual turns 30.
Types of vitiligo
Vitiligo is divided into two major categories—segmental and non-segmental Vitiligo. This classification is done on the basis of the position of macules. If the macules only occur in a section—one side of the body, a part of the leg, back, or head, it is known as segmental vitiligo. If the macules occur in a random fashion all over the body, it is known as non-segmental Vitiligo. This does not imply that a person with segmental vitiligo cannot have random macules on their body. However, segmental vitiligo is more difficult to treat than non-segmental vitiligo.
Symptoms of vitiligo
The most prominent symptom of vitiligo causes is macules on a person’s body. Although people don’t get any other sign of vitiligo, they might develop other symptoms such as itching, hearing loss, and changes in eye colour.
Vitiligo disease causes
The skin gets its colour from the natural pigment—melanin—which is produced by melanocytes (a type of cells). When these cells stop functioning, it causes vitiligo; the following are some of the most common causes of vitiligo in adults and children:
- Autoimmune conditions in which the immune system attacks healthy melanocytes, mistaking them for invaders
- Genetic changes that affect the functioning of melanocytes
- Frequent emotional or physical stress can affect the amount of pigment produced by melanocytes
- Severe sunburn or cuts (also known as Koebner response)
- Extended exposure to ultraviolet (UV) light or toxic chemicals and other environmental triggers
What causes Vitiligo to spread?
The following are some of the known triggers of vitiligo:
- Severe sunburn
- Injury or damage to the skin from a cut, scrape, burn, and/or tattoo
- Skin’s contact with a strong chemical (such as phenol)
People with vitiligo are recommended to do a patch test before trying out new products that touch their skin and use mild products that do not irritate their skin.
The following group of people have a high probability of getting vitiligo:
- People who have a family history of Vitiligo
- People who have blood relatives that have had autoimmune diseases, especially those affecting the thyroid or alopecia areata
- People who have non-Hodgkin lymphoma (cancer of the lymphatic system)
- People who have melanoma (the most severe skin cancer) or are being treated for it with immunotherapy
It is important to get a proper diagnosis from a dermatologist if you think you have vitiligo so that you can avoid unnecessary complications later on.
To sum it up
Vitiligo is rare condition that affects about 1% of the total population of the world. Scientists and doctors are researching the ins and outs of vitiligo to develop better treatment options for people with the condition. The macules (or white patches) of vitiligo are a reason of social distress for many people, but the general public has now become more accepting of the condition due to increased awareness.
Understanding the condition helps a person gain more control over their life and clear out any misconceptions or rumours that people might have. Now that you know what causes Vitiligo and its common triggers, you may be able to deal with the spread of macules on your body in a healthy manner.