Skin Diseases - Vitiligo

Vitiligo

Vitiligo is a disease that causes the loss of skin colour in blotches. The extent and rate of colour loss from vitiligo is unpredictable. It can affect the skin on any part of your body. It may also affect hair and the inside of the mouth.

Normally, the colour of hair and skin is determined by melanin. Vitiligo occurs when the cells that produce melanin die or stop functioning. Vitiligo affects people of all skin types, but it may be more noticeable in people with darker skin. The condition is not life-threatening or contagious. It can be stressful or make you feel bad about yourself.

Treatment for vitiligo may restore colour to the affected skin. But it does not prevent continued loss of skin colour or a recurrence.

What do you see?

The main sign of vitiligo is patchy loss of skin colour. Usually, the discoloration first shows on sun-exposed areas, such as the hands, feet, arms, face and lips.

Vitiligo signs include:

  • Patchy loss of skin colour.
  • Premature whitening or greying of the hair on your scalp, eyelashes, eyebrows or beard.
  • Loss of colour in the tissues that line the inside of your mouth and nose (mucous membranes).

Vitiligo can start at any age, but often appears before age 20.

Depending on the type of vitiligo you have, the discoloured patches may cover:

  • Many parts of your body - Generalized vitiligo.
  • Only one side or part of your body - Segmental vitiligo.
  • One or only a few areas of your body - Localized (focal) vitiligo.

Causes:

Vitiligo occurs when pigment-producing cells (melanocytes) die or stop producing melanin, the pigment that gives your skin, hair and eyes colour. The involved patches of skin become lighter or white. It may be related to:

  • A disorder in which your immune system attacks and destroys the melanocytes in the skin.
  • Family history (heredity).
  • A trigger event, such as sunburn, stress or exposure to industrial chemicals.

Complications

People with vitiligo may be at increased risk of:

  • Social or psychological distress.
  • Sunburn and skin cancer.
  • Eye problems, such as inflammation of the iris (iritis.)
  • Hearing loss.

Diagnosis:

  • Medical history and exam.
  • Skin biopsy.
  • Blood examination.

Treatment:

Many treatments are available to help restore skin colour or even out skin tone. Results vary and are unpredictable.

First try improving the appearance of your skin by applying self-tanning products or makeup.

Medications:

No drug can stop the process of vitiligo — the loss of pigment cells (melanocytes). But some drugs, used alone or with light therapy, can help restore some skin tone.

  • Creams that control inflammation.
  • Medications that affect the immune system Therapies:
  • Combining psoralen and light therapy
  • Removing the remaining color (depigmentation).

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