Dermatology Consultants Post

Vitiligo
Posted on 11/16/2017

Vitiligo

vitiligoVitiligo is a disorder characterized by blotches of lost skin color. These blotches appear when pigment cells (melanocytes) in your skin, mucous membranes, and retina are destroyed.

The condition affects approximately 1% of the world's population, including all ethnic origins and both sexes. Naturally, the condition is more noticeable for those with darker skin as the white blotches stand out more. The extent the condition can affect you is unpredictable. It can impact skin on any part of your body and may whiten hair as well.

Development

As mentioned, vitiligo occurs when melanocytes die. When they do, they stop producing melanin, which is the pigment that gives your skin, hair, and eyes color. Unfortunately, medical professionals do not yet know the exact cause for the melanocytes’ destruction. Since white blood cells direct the destruction of melanocytes in this condition however, vitiligo is classified as an autoimmune disorder, meaning that the body's immune system turns on itself. Statistics show that of those affected, the condition proves hereditary about 30% of the time. Half of vitiligo patients notice the symptoms before they reach 20 years of age—the first blotches often appearing after a trigger event that changes skin color, like a minor sunburn or injury, or exposure to industrial chemicals.

Main Types of Vitiligo

Vitiligo Vulgaris (the most common type)

  • With this type, also called generalized vitiligo, the blotches often progress similarly (symmetrically) on corresponding body parts.

Segmental Vitiligo​​

  • Only one side or part of your body is affected. The condition typically develops at a younger age, progresses for a couple years, and then stops.

Focal Vitiligo​​

  • One or just a few areas of your body are affected.

Treatment​​

Vitiligo treatment may help restore the color to affected skin, but it does not prevent the condition from progressing. Currently there are no cures. However, your dermatologist can offer different solutions that target the immune system and try to reverse the destruction of your melanocytes and restore color to damaged areas. There are a variety of special creams that your dermatologist can prescribe to treat the condition. Furthermore, your dermatologist may also recommend a surgical transplant of healthy melanocytes (repigmentation) to restore color and allow the skin to regain its normal appearance. 

***Note that neither of these will be instantaneous solutions, as creams take time to work and repigmentation occurs slowly over months or even years.

Contact Your Dermatologist Today

No testing is needed to diagnosis vitiligo, but if you suffer from the condition you will want to make an appointment with your Lynchburg dermatologist to discuss treatment. Don’t wait. While vitiligo has no cure, the disorder affects self-esteem and can put you at increased risk for sunburn, skin cancer, eye problems, and even hearing loss. So contact your dermatologist today to get started on treatment.