Overview Of Vitiligo

Vitiligo is a skin condition in which there is a loss of color from areas of the skin. This results in uneven white patches that lack pigment, but the skin still feels normal.

Commonly Associated With

Autoimmune disorder – vitiligo

Causes Of Vitiligo

Vitiligo occurs when immune cells destroy melanocytes. These are the cells that make brown pigment. An autoimmune problem might be the cause of this destruction. An autoimmune disorder occurs when the body’s immune system, which typically protects the body from infection, attacks and destroys the body’s healthy tissue instead. The exact cause of vitiligo is unknown and may appear at any age. In some families, there is an increased rate of Vitiligo. 

Vitiligo is associated with other autoimmune diseases including:

  • Addison disease (a disorder that occurs when the adrenal glands don’t produce enough hormones)
  • Thyroid disease
  • Pernicious anemia (decrease in red blood cells that occurs when the intestines cannot properly absorb vitamin B12)
  • Diabetes

Symptoms Of Vitiligo

Flat areas of normal-feeling skin without any pigment. These areas will appear suddenly or gradually and will also have a darker border. The edges have strong definition but are irregular.

Vitiligo frequently affects the face, elbows, knees, back of the hands and feet, and genitals. It equally affects both sides of the body. Vitiligo is more noticeable in darker-skinned people. No other skin changes occur.

Exams & Tests

To confirm the diagnosis, your health care provider can examine your skin.

Sometimes, the provider may use a Wood lamp. This is a handheld ultraviolet (UV) light that causes the areas of skin with less pigment to glow white.

In some cases, a skin biopsy may be necessary to rule out other causes of pigment loss. Your provider may also perform blood tests to check the levels of thyroid or other hormones, glucose level, and vitamin B12 to rule out any other associated disorders.

Treatment Of Vitiligo

Vitiligo is difficult to treat. Early treatment options include the following:

  • Phototherapy, or a procedure in which a medical professional will carefully expose your skin to limited amounts of UV light. Phototherapy may be given alone. It may also be given after you take a drug that makes your skin sensitive to light. A dermatologist will perform this treatment.
  • Certain lasers may help the skin repigment.
  • Medicines applied to the skin, such as corticosteroid creams or ointments, immunosuppressant creams or ointments such as pimecrolimus and tacrolimus, or topical drugs such as methoxsalen, may also be helpful.
  • The skin may be grafted from normally pigmented areas and placed onto areas where there is pigment loss.
  • Many cover-up makeups or skin dyes can mask vitiligo. Ask your health care provider for the names of these products.
  • In cases of vitiligo where a majority of the body is affected, the remaining skin that still has pigment may be depigmented (bleached). This is a permanent change that is used as a last option.
  • It is important to remember that skin with no pigment is at a higher risk for sun damage. Be sure to apply a broad-spectrum, high-SPF sunscreen. Sunscreen may also help make the condition less noticeable. This is because unaffected skin may not darken in the sun. Utilize other safeguards against sun exposure, such as wearing a broad-brimmed hat and long sleeve shirt and pants.