Vitiligo is a skin condition in which white patches start developing on some part of the skin. Any part of the body can get affected, and most of the people with vitiligo have patchy skin on more than one areas. The discolouration patches can even get larger in size with time. This condition can have an impact skin on any part of the body. It can even leave and effect on your hair and the inside of the mouth and nose. In general, the colour of your hair and skin depends on the melanin content. So, vitiligo occurs when cells that produce melanin are dead or not functioning properly. Vitiligo is more noticeable on people who have a darker skin, but it can occur on any skin type. It is not a communicable disease and not a threat to your life. However, some people feel embarrassed in social situations.
In most of the cases, vitiligo develops between the ages of 10 and 30. There are less chances of vitiligo occuring after the age of 40 years. Treatment for vitiligo might help in bringing back the normal skin colour on affected areas. World vitiligo day is celebrated on June 25, every year, to raise awareness of this skin condition for more recognition of the bullying, social and psychological trauma that disables millions of people who are affected by vitiligo. Onlymyhealth editorial team spoke to Dermatologist Dr. Nivedita Dadu, Dermatology clinic, about the symptoms, causes, diagnosis and treatment of vitiligo.
There is a high chance that one will see these patches quickly on different locations of the body. And, after some parts lose pigment, they may or may not get bigger after some time. They can even change areas of the skin pigment loss in cycles. According to Dr. Nivedita, here are the main symptoms of vitiligo:
1. Patchy skin
One of the initial symptoms of vitiligo is patchy skin. These patches are more visible on people with darker skin. These patches start to appear on the face, hands, arms, legs and feet. Sometimes these white patches appear on your genitals, and melanin is completely depleted from these patches.
2. Premature greying of hair
These patches can also appear near your eyes, scalp and chin, resulting in complete whitening of hair inside these patches. Sometimes, a patient just might notice early whitening or greying of hair, eyebrows and facial hair. A person might also experience whitening of eyelashes.
3. Loss of the colour of tissues
A person affected by vitiligo might also experience loss of color in various tissues like inside of your nose. The tissues will become lighter. They might also experience a change in color of their eyes, due to melanin loss in cornea. This can lead to difficulty in looking into bright light.
Vitiligo occurs when the cells that produce pigment melanin die or don't function properly, as it is an important pigment to give colour to your skin, hair and eyes. There can be patches on the skin that either become lighter or white. The cause for vitiligo developing on the skin is unknown as it is not clear what what causes these pigment cells to die or misfunction. But, some risk factors of vitiligo are:
1. Family history
Family history is one of the most common risk factors behind vitiligo. Vitiligo is a skin condition that can run in families. You are at a higher risk of developing vitiligo if someone else in your family has it too. This can even occur if people in your family are facing premature greying of hair.
2. Autoimmune diseases
Autoimmune diseases, including autoimmune thyroid disease and type 1 diabetes, can also put you at a higher risk of developing vitiligo. If you have vitiligo, you may also experience early symptoms of thyroid problems. Thyroid diseases are one of the most commonly connected complications for people who are affected by vitiligo, and having a thyroid disease can even be a sign that vitiligo will occur.
3. Skin trauma
Skin trauma means severe physical injury or trauma that affected the many layers of the skin. This can be in various forms such as cuts, sunburns, sickness or any other injury. Therefore, skin trauma is also considered as a major trigger factor for vitiligo. You need to take care of your skin even when it comes to sunburns or contact with chemicals.
Vitiligo diagnosis and treatment
If you experience any symptoms of vitiligo, it is important to discuss it with an expert. The doctor will ask about your medical history and check your skin using a special light. Vitiligo diagnosis process can also include a skin biopsy and blood tests. It is hard to know beforehand about the progression of this disease. Sometimes, the white patches stop occuring without any treatment. In most of the cases, pigment loss spreads on the skin and gradually most parts of your skin. Very rarely, the skin gets its normal color back.
Also read: How to Treat White Spots Caused by Tanning
The treatment option depends on various factors including your age, how much skin is affected and where, the progression of this disease and how it is leaving an impact on your life. Medicines and light-based therapies are two major choices of treatment to help in restoring skin color the normal skin colour. The results might vary from person to person. Even if the treatment becomes successful for sometime, there are chances that the patches might start showing again. The doctor might prescribe a medication to topically apply on the skin to prevent relapse. Light therapy, skin grafting, cellular transplant and depigmentation are some other therapies that might be suggested by your doctor as a treatment for vitiligo.
So, these were the symptoms, risk factors and treatment of vitiligo by Dr. Nivedita Dadu. If you have any of the vitiligo symptoms listed above, it is best to consult a dermatologist for further medical diagnosis and treatment plan. Do not try home remedies on your own without talking to an expert.
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