Vitiligo Symptoms: White Patches On Skin, Others.
Vitiligo seems like an unknown disease with little awareness, but about 2 percent of the world's population suffers from Vitiligo. For these ones, the limited information can be disappointing. Vitiligo is a condition in which the skin loses pigment, resulting in patches of lighter skin spreading all over the body. The jury is still out on what causes vitiligo, and treatments are continuously developing. But managing white patches on skin can have both physical and psychological repercussions. Recently, models with vitiligo were featured prominently in marketing campaigns. Model Amy Deanna, starred in a Covergirl foundation campaign, to raise positive awareness of the skin condition.
There are two kinds of vitiligo: segmental and non-segmental. The former typically affects just one side or area of your body. The latter is the most common form of vitiligo, and the white patches affect both sides of your body symmetrically. Experts don’t entirely understand why a person develops vitiligo. Nor do they know what determines which type that people get. Vitiligo is a multifactorial disease that can have both genetic and environmental causes, and no one really knows why some people get one form over another.
Patches of skin without color are the main sign a person has vitiligo. But the condition can also cause hair to turn gray or white in the affected areas. Vitiligo can show up anywhere on the body, but patches are most typically seen on the face, hands, underarms, and genitals. Vitiligo patches vary widely in size and number from person to person. There's usually no way to tell when the vitiligo will stop or how fast it’ll progress.
Vitiligo develops when pigment producing cells (melanocytes) die or simply stop making melanin. Experts don't know yet exactly why this happens, just that there are genetic and environmental factors at play.
Vitiligo is an autoimmune disease. Particularly in non-segmental vitiligo, the body attacks the melanocytes. If you have one auto-immune disease, you're likely to have another. Because of this, your doctor will screen you for other autoimmune diseases. If you have one autoimmune disease, you're more likely to have another.”
You’re also more likely to develop vitiligo if other family members have it; if you've been exposed to certain industrial chemicals; or if you have melanoma, a dangerous type of skin cancer.
Doctors can sometimes diagnose vitiligo just by looking at your skin (and hearing about your family history). But in other cases, it’s not as straightforward. Sometimes a biopsy is needed. If the patient is very fair-skinned and the white patches on skin are not that obvious, a special light called a Wood’s lamp is used. The light basically helps to better see the color difference caused by the absence of melanocytes.
Vitiligo is a long-term condition, but it’s not life-threatening and does not necessarily need to be treated. Most treatments try to restore skin color or even skin tone, but they may not always work and come with side effects.
If you do decide to pursue treatment, it might involve topical steroids, light therapy, or medication. There are also surgical procedures for vitiligo, including punch grafting. You can take pigmented skin from one area of the body and transfer it to the area of vitiligo, and sometimes that skin will cause the vitiligo-affected skin to repigment.
Coping with vitiligo
There’s one important step for anyone with vitiligo to take: sunscreen. The areas of skin that vitiligo affects are particularly susceptible to sunburns and sun damage because there’s no melanin to protect it. There’s even a chance that sun damage may make vitiligo spread. Sunscreen will also prevent tanning, and tanning can make affected areas more obvious.
In the end, there is no wrong or right way to cope with vitiligo. Only you can decide whether covering it up or celebrating it makes you feel the most confident and comfortable.
Who does vitiligo affect?
Many people develop it in their twenties, but it can occur at any age. The disorder affects all races and both sexes equally, however, it is more noticeable in people with dark skin.
People with certain autoimmune diseases (such as hyperthyroidism) are more likely to get vitiligo than people who don't have any autoimmune diseases. Scientists do not know why vitiligo is connected with these diseases. However, most people with vitiligo have no other autoimmune disease.
Vitiligo may also run in families. Children whose parents have the disorder are more likely to develop vitiligo. However, most children will not get vitiligo even if a parent has it.