Vitiligo is a rare skin disorder that causes loss of skin color infraction of patches. It is a long-term disease and the smooth white spots formed are due to the absence of melanocytes. These melanocytes or the skin cells that produce melanin are destroyed by the body’s immune system or the so-called autoimmune condition.
Vitiligo is not so rare but rare to be found as approximately 2% of the total population, and an estimated 2 to 5 million suffer from it. Also, if the spot is less than 5mm, it will be termed as macules and patches for the spot greater than that.
Vitiligo is expected to start showing its effects from an early age of 10 and, in most cases, fully developed until the age of 40. There is no evident proof that vitiligo follows a genetic transmission, but nearly around 30% of the affected patients have a family member with this disease.
How does vitiligo progress?
Vitiligo often starts with a few small patches that may spread over large body parts within the course of a few months. It usually begins on hands, forearms, feet, and face but has the capacity to spread to any part of the body, including the inner ear and genitals. In severe types, the patch spreads to a larger area and is able to grow every year. However, in most cases, the same patch developed at an early age remains stuck for a lifetime. Luckily, it is not a transmissible disease, and hence, you cannot catch it from someone else.
What are the types of vitiligo?
On the basis of the size, color, location, and duration of the white patch, vitiligo can be divided into a few types. Determining your type will lead the way to proper diagnosis, treatment, and medications for the same.
- Generalized – This is the most common type of vitiligo. It is when patches of macules size appear on different parts of the body.
- Segmental – This is the type where the body part affected with this autoimmune condition is restricted to one part only, such as hands and face.
- Mucosal – This affects the mucous membranes of the mouths and/or genitals.
- Focal – It’s a rare condition where patches of macules size appear at one focal point only and do not spread elsewhere.
- Trichrome– In this type, a rare combination of completely white, semi-patched skin and regular skin is seen. It usually occurs at the same place.
- Universal – It’s a quite rare and severe case of vitiligo where almost 80% or more of the body is covered with smooth white patches.
If not detected via a physical examination which is most commonly used, your doctor may ask you for a skin test and even a blood test in some cases. There are two kinds of diagnosis for skin:
- Skin Biopsy – A sample of your skin is sent for a laboratory test
- Wood’s lamp test – In this, the use of ultraviolet light is used to scan the details of your skin.
What causes Vitiligo?
Although it’s still not quite clear as to what causes vitiligo it is evidently understood that the existence of an autoimmune condition can be observed. This causes loss of melanin (originally produced from melanocytes) which is responsible for giving color to the skin. Following are a couple of distinguished reasons that causes vitiligo:
Autoimmunity – As discussed in the above paragraph, vitiligo is considered to be an autoimmune condition. This condition can be the root cause for the general type of vitiligo, which is the most commonly seen. This causes the immunity of our body to attack the melanocyte skin cells, which reduces the amount of melanin to form smooth white patches.
Genetic Factor – Although there isn’t any evidence that proves that vitiligo can pass from someone’s heir, it is studied that somewhere 30% of the individuals affected have one or more family members suffering from this disease.
Neurogenic Aspect – A substance or an enzyme that is toxic to melanocytes may be released from the nerve endings in the skin.
Self-destruction – An injury caused that destroys melanocytes to some extent can be one of the common causes.
Melanoma – It is a type of skin cancer and can also be termed as Non-Hodgkin Lymphoma. Having this severe skin disease can also lead to an autoimmune condition and may cause loss of melanin.
Chemical Exposure – Sunburn or some sort of chemical attack on the skin also makes the melanin lose from melanocytes.
What are the symptoms of Vitiligo?
Following are the signs and symptoms that will depict whether you are inheriting vitiligo or have been suffering from it:
- White and smooth patches observed on the skin are usually the common signs depicting vitiligo. The size of the spots can range from small spots termed as macules and patches for wide skin textures.
- Such patches are most commonly seen in body parts like hands, feet, armpits, and face. In rare instances, the skin of the inner ear, eyes, and genital areas are also affected.
- If affected in the areas around your scalp, the color of hair will turn white and grey as well.
There’s no absolute fix for vitiligo, but you can definitely improve the skin tone and bring uniformity in your skin color. A couple of kinds of therapies, surgery, and some home remedies are common references for treating vitiligo:
Camouflage Therapy – It is recommended to use sunscreen with SPF 30 or above, and the same should also shield the skin from ultraviolet A and B lights. The use of sunscreen will help in normalizing the skin tone against the odds of tannin and sunburn. If the area around the scalp is affected, the use of hair dyes can be experimented.
Light Therapy – In this therapy, UVA and UVB lights are used to treat the small patches of vitiligo and demand 2 to 3 sessions per week for several months. This therapy works the best for people suffering from small and segmented patches.
Medications – Your doctor may prescribe you to apply some corticosteroid creams on the affected areas. It might take some months to show its results but will help in lightening the skin tone and getting the color back. In some rare cases, your doctor can also suggest taking some ointments to reduce the autoimmune condition.
Surgery – There are primarily two kinds of surgeries involved to cure vitiligo:
- Mini grafting – In this kind of surgery, the fraction of skin affected will be extracted out and replaced by other parts of the skin which have high levels of melanin.
- Micropigmentation – It includes tattooing the lips affected by vitiligo.
Counseling – The patients suffering from vitiligo are adapted with several physical insecurities and lose their confidence to interact with others. It is advised to take a few counseling sessions to relieve the mental stress and proudly accept this condition.
Vitiligo is a rare skin disorder that is caused by the absence of melanin from melanocytes present in the skin cells. It is autoimmune conditions that make our body’s immunity attack melanocytes and make the skin lose its color. Smooth and white patches are observed in different parts of the body but it mainly affects the hand, feet, elbows, and face.
By some mere physical examinations and lab tests, this disease can be easily diagnosed. By Using some steroid creams and some technical therapies, one can improve the texture of their skin and normalize it with other skin tones.
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