Vitiligo - Health Center


By Refadoc, Posted on : Tuesday, 15 September 2015 - 10:46 am IST

Vitiligo – Basic Information

Vitiligo is a condition which causes the loss of skin colour in the form of blotches. The extent as well as the rate of the colour loss caused due to Vitiligo cannot be determined. Vitiligo is known to affect the skin on any part of the body. It also tends to affect the hair, inside of the mouth as well as the eyes.

Melanin is the colour component which determines the colour of the skin, eyes and the hair. However, in cases of Vitiligo, the cells which produce melanin either die or they stop functioning altogether. Vitiligo affects people across different skin types. However, it is more noticeable amongst people with darker skin tone. Vitiligo is neither life threatening nor a contagious condition. The treatment options for the condition can improve the overall appearance of the skin but cannot aim to cure the disease completely. 

Causes of Vitiligo

Vitiligo is caused when the Melanin forming cells, the melanocytes die or stop producing the pigment which imparts the colour to the skin, hair and the eyes. The areas where the Melanin production is hampered tend to become lighter or white in colour. The main reason for the impaired function of these cells is unknown. However, it has been found out that heredity plays a major role in causing Vitiligo. In some cases, certain trigger factors such as sunburn, stress or overexposure to industrial chemicals also emerge as one of the biggest reasons for Vitiligo. 

Signs and Symptoms of Vitiligo

The main symptom of Vitiligo is the formation of light or white patches around the affected regions. Usually, the first symptom is the discolouration of the areas exposed to the sun, such as the hands, feet, arms, face and the lips. Apart from those, certain other symptoms of the condition are as follows:

  •       Discolouration of the skin
  •       Premature whitening or greying of the hair over the scalp
  •       Change in colour of the inner eye layer
  •       Discoloured patches around the armpits, navel and the genital areas

Vitiligo can affect people at any age. However, in most cases it tends to begin before the age of 20. Generalized Vitiligo is the most common kind of Vitiligo which causes discoloured patches symmetrically over the body. Segmental Vitiligo affects young people and affects only one side or part of the body. Localized or Focal Vitiligo is the rarest kind of Vitiligo which affects only one or few areas of the body.

It is very difficult to predict the progression of the disease. Treatments can help to stop or slow the progression of the condition. However, there is no cure for this disease.

Tests and Diagnosis of Vitiligo:

If the doctor suspects Vitiligo, he often starts with probing the medical history of the patient. The patient is also examined in order to rule out other medical conditions such as dermatitis or psoriasis. A special lamp emitting ultraviolent radiations is shone onto the skin in order to determine Vitiligo.

Apart from gathering information regarding the past medical history of the patient, the doctor may also take a small sample of the skin and draw blood for conducting blood tests. Often, the patient is also recommended to visit an eye specialist in order to check for signs of inflammation. It is also suggested to check with an audiologist, as people suffering from Vitiligo have an increased risk of hearing loss.

Treatment and Drugs for Vitiligo:

The treatment options available for Vitiligo help to restore the skin colour and the skin tone. However, the results tend to vary and are quite unpredictable. The following are the major approaches which are available for treating Vitiligo:

  1. Medications: No drugs can stop the process of Vitiligo. However, certain drugs can improve the appearance of the skin. Topical Corticosteroids can be used in order to control the inflammation of the skin and to re pigment the skin. Dovonex is a form of Vitamin D which can be used in order to improve the skin tone of the affected person.
  2. Medication and Light Therapy: This therapy uses the drug Psoralen along with light therapy in order to return the light patches of the skin. This treatment option however needs to be repeated upto three times a week for 12 months.
  3. Laser Therapy: This therapy brings back the colour to the patches of the light skin by treating them with a laser which uses UVB light. This option can however be used on small areas of the skin along with the combination of the drugs.
  4. Surgery: Surgery is an option where no other treatment option has worked out. Skin Grafting can be done in which sections of the normal, pigmented skin are removed and are attached to the areas where the skin has lost the pigment. Micro pigmentation is a technique in which a special surgical instrument is used in order to implant the pigment back onto the skin. This treatment is the most effective around the lips. 
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