The Fundamentals of Vitiligo | Understanding the Options

What Causes Vitiligo?

The key to understanding vitiligo is to understand the role of melanin production. The cells that produce melanin, which produces the pigment that determines hair and skin color, have died. It is the loss of pigment that causes vitiligo.  Where vitiligo is an autoimmune disorder is controversial.  Autoimmune diseases cause the body’s immune system to attack itself. With vitiligo, the result of this attack is that the melanin cells are killed and the loss of skin pigmentation results in blotchiness of the skin.

Who is affected by vitiligo?

Vitiligo can affect all ages and skin types, however, it is much more noticeable when it affects those with darker skin. There is not a cure for vitiligo but there are treatments and management available. Approximately 2% of the population is affected by this skin disease worldwide.

Common symptoms of vitiligo

Symptoms of vitiligo usually start as patchy or blotchy skin in areas that have been exposed to the sun: face, hands, and feet. Generally, symptoms of vitiligo besides blotchy skin can include color loss from hair, scalp, eyelashes, or eyebrows; color loss from tissues around or in the mouth and nose; and even color loss in eyes.  The most common type of vitiligo covers your body symmetrically, however other types of vitiligo may only affect one side of the body or even just a few areas of your body.  In some cases, the vitiligo may stop on its own, but usually, it will continue to spread and involve the entire body.

How is vitiligo treated?

Typically a dermatologist will suggest a corticosteroid cream to help with inflammation.  Corticosteroids also may help maintain the skin’s color. Other treatments include ointments that can help manage the depigmentation and ultraviolet light therapy. In some cases, surgery may be suggested in an effort to even the uneven skin tones.  Understanding vitiligo can be an emotionally charged journey, consider connecting with a support group, to help manage vitiligo and public perception.

If you have vitiligo and would like an appointment to discuss treatment options, contact us today for a consultation with one our dermatologist.

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