Vitiligo : Skin Disease Due to Lack of Melanin

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Vitiligo is a skin condition where white patches appear all over the body. The patches appear because the skin starts to lose its melanin, which gives it pigment. It can affect every area of the body, and most people who suffer from the condition have it in several areas. It is painless and mostly a cosmetic issue. It can affect people from every race, but it much more noticeable in people with dark skin.

Causes of Vitiligo

Vitiligo occurs when pigment-forming cells known as melanocytes have been destroyed and the body can no longer produce melanin. The cause is unknown, but it is believed to be an autoimmune disorder. The body starts to attack itself and kills these cells. It often runs in families and is linked to other diseases, such as thyroid disease and diabetes.

Symptoms of Vitiligo

The symptoms of vitiligo can appear suddenly. The sufferer might notice a small white spot on the body that wasn’t there the day before. The spot might appear to stay the same for a short time but can actually grow much larger. Some people experience it in cycles. They might lose a lot of pigment at once in one place or might lose it in several places on the body. Once the pigment has been lost, it is not likely to return.

Diagnosis of Vitiligo

Doctors can diagnose vitiligo with a physical exam. They might run tests to make sure that the cause of the pigment loss is indeed vitiligo and not another type of skin condition or disease. Doctors will inspect the body to determine how serious the vitiligo is and if there are any triggers or underlying causes.

Treatment of Vitiligo

There is no cure or treatment for vitiligo. Doctors might recommend some cosmetic procedure that can improve the look of the skin that is already affected by the condition. These treatment options include:

  • Corticosteroid creams: These topical creams are applied to the areas where the vitiligo is present. They help the skin heal faster and can improve the way it looks.
  • UV Light Therapy: The light is directed at the skin, and doctors will attempt to color the lighter skin to make it match the person’s natural skin tone.
  • Skin GraftsThis involves taking skin from one place on the body and using it to cover the areas of the skin that are affected by vitiligo. Skin grafts can be painful, and they don’t always work.
  • Cosmetics: There are numerous cosmetic products that can be used to cover up vitiligo patches. These cosmetics are stronger than the concealer a person might use on his or her face and typically last longer.

Prognosis of Vitiligo

People who have vitiligo can live healthy lives. Once a doctor can rule out underlying causes of the disease or correct those problems, the only issue with vitiligo is the way it looks. Dermatologists can recommend treatment options that often work to improve the look of the skin and even slow down the progress of the vitiligo.

Additional Resources:

  • American College of Dermatology