Vitiligo is a pigmentation disorder where patches appear on your skin and the skin loses its natural color. The discolored areas get bigger with time. This condition may affect any part of your body, even your hair and inside of the mouth. These days, a patient can choose many vitiligo treatment options to overcome their conditions.
Let us acquaint you with all about vitiligo causes, its symptoms, and treatments in this article.
Melanin is a pigment that gives a natural color to your skin. In vitiligo, skin cells that produce this melanin either die or can’t secrete this component. Though vitiligo can be a hereditary disease, some other factors like chemical exposure, stress, sunburn, autoimmune disorders, etc. are responsible for vitiligo.
Vitiligo is more prominent among dark-colored people, but it can affect any race.
Who is more susceptible to getting vitiligo?
Nearly 2 to 5 million of the American population are suffering from this condition. In most cases, it appears early in life between 10-30 years. It is prominent before age 40.
You may inherit this disease from your family or when people in your family may get gray hair prematurely.
Autoimmune diseases like autoimmune thyroid (H 0020tashimoto’s thyroiditis) or type-1 diabetes may enhance your chance of getting the disease.
Though vitiligo is not a life-threatening condition it may damage your appearance and self-esteem. Vitiligo treatment will reinstate the color of the damaged skin, but it won’t prevent recurrence or continual loss of the skin color.
Vitiligo signs could be:
- Patchy loss of skin color (generally appears on the hands, then gradually spreads to the face, and areas around body openings and the genitals)
- Premature whitening or appearance of gray hair on your scalp, eyelashes, eyebrows or beard
- Loss of color in the tissues that are present inside the line of the mouth and nose (mucous membranes)
Vitiligo usually appears before 30 years. Based on the types of vitiligo, you may experience it on your body.
Nearly All Skin Surfaces: This type is called universal vitiligo where discoloration affects nearly all skin surfaces of your body
Many Parts of the Body: This type of vitiligo is called generalized vitiligo where discolored patches appear symmetrically on various body parts
Only One Side or Part of the Body: This type of vitiligo is known as segmental vitiligo. It appears at your young age and progresses gradually for a year or two, then stops.
One or Only a Few Areas of the Body: This type of vitiligo is called localized (focal) vitiligo and it appears only in some particular parts of your body.
The Face and Hands: This type of vitiligo is called acrofacial vitiligo and it affects the face, hands, and around body openings, such as the eyes, nose and ears.
The underlying causes of the progression of the disease are not known. Many times, the patches stop forming without any treatment. But in most cases, it spreads most of the skin and your skin turns black-colored.
Your doctor will perform some blood tests, a skin biopsy test, and a physical examination with a special lamp.
Medication for Vitiligo Treatment
Depending on your age and how much skin is damaged, you need to choose the right treatment for you. Medications along with light therapy are useful in restoring skin color.
1. Drugs that Control Inflammation:
Your doctor will suggest using a corticosteroid cream on the affected skin to restore the color. This is very useful when the vitiligo is in its nascent stage. These creams are easy-to-use, but you may not notice any changes in the skin color for several months.
Milder forms of the drugs are recommended for children and people who have large infected areas (discolored skin).
Corticosteroid pills or injections are useful for people whose conditions are progressing quickly.
2. Medications That Affect the Immune System
Calcineurin inhibitor ointments, such as tacrolimus (Protopic) or pimecrolimus (Elidel) could be useful for people who have small affected areas.
Other Treatments for Vitiligo
1. Therapies for Vitiligo
There are two main therapies used for treating vitiligo:
2. Light Therapy
Phototherapy by using narrowband ultraviolet B (UVB) is effective in preventing or slowing down the progression of active vitiligo. This is more beneficial if used with corticosteroids or calcineurin inhibitors. You need to continue the therapy for 3 months (thrice a week) before you notice any change.
3. Combining Psoralen and Light Therapy
This treatment uses a plant-derived substance called psoralen along with light therapy (photochemotherapy) to restore the skin color of the light patches. But this therapy is difficult to implement, hence it is replaced by narrowband UVB therapy.
4. Removing the remaining color (depigmentation)
This is the utmost option if your vitiligo is widespread and other treatments have failed. A depigmenting agent is used to unaffected areas of skin and it lightens the skin gradually. Side effects are redness, swelling, itching and very dry skin.
People with stable vitiligo may opt for surgeries.
6. Skin Grafting
Here, your doctor transfers very small parts of your wholesome, pigmented skin to the affected areas. This procedure is useful if you have small patches of vitiligo.
7. Blister Grafting
Here, your doctor produces blisters on your pigmented skin by using suction. Then, the experienced doctor transplants the tops of the blisters into discolored skin. The possible side effects could be scarring.
8. Cellular Suspension Transplant
By collecting some tissues from your pigmented skin, the doctor puts them into a solution and then transplants them onto the prepared affected area. The re-pigmentation process starts within four weeks.
The Bottom Line
Vitiligo is neither lethal nor contagious, but it may disrupt your lifestyle and confidence. If you notice any changes in your skin, talk to the doctor and take proper precautions and treatment.