Vitiligo is a loss of skin pigment that causes white patches or spots to appear on the skin. It is unknown why this happens, but it affects people of all races.
This skin disorder occurs when the skin cells that produce melanin, the chemical that gives skin its pigmentation gets destroyed by the body’s immune system.
Vitiligo can occasionally have different appearances, so being familiar with its diverse patterns can be helpful in recognizing it and telling it apart from other conditions. For instance, it can initially affect a small area, called focal vitiligo. It can then become widespread, referred to as generalized vitiligo.
Other patterns include:
- Mucosal Vitiligo – affects the lips and genitals
- Lip-Tip Vitiligo – found in the lips, genitals, and fingertips
- Acrofacial Vitiligo – affects the face and hands
- Universal Vitiligo – 80% of the skin has lost its pigment because the condition has spread all over
- Segmental Vitiligo – affects just one side of the body and stays in a small area
There is no available permanent cure for this skin condition. However, there’s treatment that can help:
- Make the white skin patches attain normal skin color again
- Melanocytes to grow again
- Slow or stop disease progression
Treatment may differ for every individual. A treatment option that works for one person may not work for the other. At times, a combination of treatment produce adequate results.
Some people may get new patches with time. You should consult your dermatologist to know which treatment will work best for you.
This involves the use of phototherapy lamps to restore skin color. Some combine this with psoralen.
To camouflage the patches, makeup, self-tanners, and skin dyes may be used. They are safe to use but time-consuming. This is the safest way to hide the spots in children with the condition.
These are medicines applied to the skin. Steroid creams or ointments can add color to the skin and work best for people with darkly pigmented skin. They demonstrate the best results on the face compared to other body parts.
In some people, vitamins, minerals, and herbs, like Ginkgo biloba, help restore the skin color.
In rare cases, some people may opt for the removal of the remaining skin pigment. This may be done in people who have extensive skin involvement due to the condition.
Coping and Support
Changes in your appearance caused by vitiligo might make you feel sad, self-conscious, or stressed. To cope with it, find a dermatologist who knows a lot about the condition. Learn about it and your treatment options so that you can decide on what steps to take.
Talk about your feelings. Let your doctor know if you are feeling depressed. They can refer you to a health provider who specializes in helping people with depression.
Communicate with others. Join support groups for people with vitiligo. Seek understanding and support from your family and friends.