Vitiligo is a dermatological condition which occurs when your pigment (skin color) producing cells die or stop producing pigment. This results in the appearance of white patches on different parts of the body.
What are the causes?
Vitiligo is an autoimmune condition in which the body’s immune systems begins to mistakenly attack and destroy certain cells within the body. In this case the immune response targets and destroy the melanocytes (pigment producing cells) causing de-pigmentation of the skin.
Contributing factors that may have led to the immune response include:
A family history of Vitiligo (a genetic or hereditary link)
A trigger event such as a period of prolonged emotional stress, traumatic event etc.
Trauma to the skin such as a severe burn, exposure to hazardous chemicals and sun damage.
Evidence of gluten intolerance in some individuals.
Are there different types?
There are various types of Vitiligo;
Generalized Vitiligo: The most common type, where the discolored skin tends to progress on corresponding parts of the body
Segmental Vitiligo: This type tends to occur at younger ages, and starts spreading for a year or two before stopping. After the spreading stops, the spots or patches do not re-pigment by themselves and require treatment.
Localized or Focal Vitiligo: Here the condition only affects certain parts of your body. It is specific to one part of the body, i.e. Face, hands, groin etc.
Who is affected?
Worldwide, statistics show that about 1-2% of the population are affected by Vitiligo, with populations in some countries having rates of up to 4%. Both males and females are equally susceptible to being affected by the condition with about 50% showing the disorder before the age of 20 and most developing the condition before the age of 55.
What are the visible signs?
The only visible signs of having Vitiligo is the presence of de-pigmented areas (white patches or spots) which can appear on any part of the body. These areas of depigmentation initially start out small, but often change shape and can spread over time.
Will the Vitiligo spread?
There is no certain way to tell if a patient’s Vitiligo will spread or not. For some patients, de-pigmentation (white patches) do not spread. For others however, the de-pigmentation continues to spread slowly over a period of years whereas with others the de-pigmentation can spread quite rapidly.
How is the condition diagnosed?
In most circumstances, a doctor or dermatologist will diagnose whether a patient has Vitiligo. The practitioner will take both the patient’s medical/family history into account. The Doctor then carries out a physical examination to ensure the correct diagnose.
There are a number of different treatments available to help re-pigment skin. These treatments also even out skin tone. Results vary from person to person. Sometimes an individual may have to try more than one approach to attain results. A combination of treatment may even works best for some patients.
Treatments options consist of the following:
Specialized creams when applied to de-pigmented areas can help restore skin tone to de-pigmented areas.
Orally taken medications that helps in slowing down the spread of de-pigmented areas and help in reversing depigmentation.
Skin grafting procedures occur where a doctor removes a very small section of normal, pigmented skin and then attaches it to areas that have lost pigment. This procedure may be beneficial for small patches.
Blister grafting procedures where a doctor creates blisters on normal, pigmented skin, usually with suction. The Doctor removes the top of the blisters and transplants them to an area of colorless skin. Possible risks however, include scarring, a cobblestone appearance as well as failure of the area to re-colour. Additionally, skin damage caused by suctioning could trigger another patch of Vitiligo.
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Published by Vitiligo Treatment.