This condition can be limited to one area or it can affect different areas of your skin. This condition may run in the family. At some cases, it is linked to other medical conditions such as pernicious anemia. Vitiligo does not have any major health concerns and it is not painful but it can bring psychological and emotional concerns.
Vitiligo happens when the cells that create melanin die which results to white patches of uneven shapes to appear on your skin. Vitiligo can affect all races by these are more visible to individuals with darker skin.
The white patches start at small areas and may spread over time. Up to the moment, there is no cure for this condition. The treatment for vitiligo is being used to stop or slow down the development of pigment loss.
- The pigment loss which results to white patches on the skin is the main sign of vitiligo.
- The other less common signs of vitiligo are:
- Graying or whitening of your eyebrows, eyelashes and hair
- The inner layer of your eye changed in color
- Vitiligo can develop on your feet, hands, face, lips, arms and even genitals. Ages of 10 and 30 are the ages that vitiligo often first appears.
When to see a doctor
If some areas of your skin, eyes and hair lose its color, you have to consult your doctor right away. There is no cure for vitiligo but treatment does exist and it can slow or stop the depigmentation process and try to return certain color to your skin.
As soon as melanin-forming cells fail to create melanin, vitiligo occurs. The reason why white patches appear is unknown.
The theories of some scientists and doctors to what causes this condition is due to immune system disorder. In some families, there’s an increased incidence of vitiligo, so hereditary is one of the factors too. The condition is being triggered by sunburn or emotional distress, according to some people. But, none of these theories has been proven to be the causes of this condition.
Consult your doctor
If you are experiencing some symptoms, you can start visiting your family doctor. Your doctor then will refer you to consult a dermatologist (doctor specializes in skin problems).
Before visiting your doctor, you have to be prepared in order for you to know what to expect for him/her.
What you can do
Here are the things that you can do:
Gather information about your family’s medical history. You have to check if a member of your family has a vitiligo or a history of autoimmune or thyroid disease.
- Jot down some personal information such as recent skin rashes, sunburns, recent life changes and any key stresses.
- If you are taking any supplements, medication and/or vitamins, list them all down.
- If you have any questions that you wish to ask your doctor, jot them all down.
You may have limited time with your doctor, so preparing the questions that you wish to ask your doctor can be at help in making the most of your time with your doctor.
Here are some of the questions that you may ask your doctor:
- What is/are the cause/s of my symptoms?
- Is there any other potential cause for my symptoms?
- Do I need to undergo some tests?
- Is my condition permanent or temporary?
- What are the treatment options for my condition?
- Will there be any side effects from the treatment?
- Is there an alternative?
- Would there be any restrictions that I need to follow?
If in case, there are things that you do not understand, do not hesitate to ask your doctor to repeat it or to ask any other questions.
- What to expect from your doctor
- As you visit your doctor, he/she will ask some questions which includes:
- When does the losing pigment begun?
- Before the pigment loss, did you have any skin rashes or sunburn?
- Do the parts of pigment loss itch?
- Have you been diagnosed of melanoma before?
- Do you have a family member with a history of vitiligo or/and autoimmune diseases?
- Are you being exposed with harsh chemicals?
- Test and diagnosis
Your doctor will ask all about your medical history and inspect you if in case he/she is suspecting that you have vitiligo.
- There are factors that your medical history should contain and these include:
- Family history of autoimmune disease or vitiligo
- Personal history of skin problems or sun sensitivity
- Did you have any rash, skin trauma or sunburn within the start of pigment loss
- History of melanoma
- History of atypical moles
- Any premature graying of hair
- Physical illness or stress
If you have any other skin conditions such as psoriasis or dermatitis, you also have to inform your doctor about it. A woods lamp will be used by your doctor to check if you have vitiligo.
Aside from getting your family and personal medical history, your doctor may do other things such as:
- Blood draw to check your blood cell count and thyroid function in order to check if you have autoimmune disease
- Your doctor may also ask you to consult an ophthalmologist for eye examination to check if there is any inflammation in the eye.
- Treatment is not necessary if you have vitiligo. In some cases, skin color does returns to normal without taking any treatment. To some individuals, using cosmetic camouflage cream and sunscreen may mend the appearance of their skin.
- The key objective of medical treatment is to restore color or destroy the remaining color to even out your skin tone.
- About six to eighteen months of using medical treatment before it may take effect. It is better to try more than one treatment before you’ll be able to find the best treatment for you.
- Corticosteroids cream may help in returning color to your skin. Use it for 3 months before you’ll see some changes in your skin color. But your doctor needs to monitor you for side effects.
- Topical immunomodulators can be used by individuals with depigmentation on small areas. This can be used together with ultraviolet B (UVB) treatments.
- Photochemotherapy can be used if your body has less than 20% of depigmented patches. Topical psoralen will be applied thinly by your doctor or nurse for about 30 minutes before light exposure. A normal skin color will appear as the skin heals.
- Oral psoralen is recommended if your body has more than 20% of depigmented patches. About two hours before exposure to UVA light, oral psoralen should be taken. Two or three times a week, you have to visit your doctor.
- Narrowband ultraviolet B (UVB) therapy is an alternative to oral psoralen photochemotherapy (PUVA). This can be run just like with PUVA.
- Excimer laser can be used on small areas of vitiligo online and should be combined with topical drugs. Blistering and redness are the side effects of this method.
- Depigmentation therapy can lighten the unaffected areas in order to match it up with the areas that losses its color. Twice a day, apply a medication called monobenzone on the areas of skin that have pigment. Swelling and redness are the side effects of this method.
- Skin grafting – Your doctor will remove a small section of your pigmented skin and place it to the areas that have lost pigment.
- Tattooing – this method is most effective around the lips and for individuals with dark skin.
- Blister grafting – by using suction, your doctor will make blisters on your pigmented skin. Tops of the blisters are detached and shifted where a blister of equal size has been made in no pigment area.
Here are some of the tips that you can do to care for your skin and mend its appearance:
- Use a sunscreen with an SPF of at least 30 to protect your skin from sun’s rays.
- To decrease the white patches in your skin, use concealing cosmetics.