Vitiligo is a disease caused by the inability to form pigments in the skin. Vitiligo usually appears through patches of white skin, but can also hit the hair in some cases.
Because vitiligo consists of stains without pigment, it is more evident if you have a darker skin type. The disease is usually harmless, and it is not contagious either. However, there may be an inheritance within the family. Vitilogo affects about as many men and women, and people of all ages can get the disease. In rare cases, vitiligo may be part of the course of another disease.
Vitiligo can occur in several different places, for example around the mouth, eyelids, hands, armpits, knees and genitals. Hair in the affected area may turn white. The size of the white areas varies greatly between different people with vitiligo. The areas usually do not cause itching or irritation.
Vitiligo is usually divided into local and general. General vitiligo is the much more common variant in which many areas of the skin lack pigment, often in corresponding areas on both sides of the body. Local vitiligo often lacks pigment in places on one side of the body.
Caused by lack of cells producing pigments
What happens in the skin when the white areas occur is that there are no melanocytes. Melanocytes are the cells that produce melanin, color pigments. When melanocytes are missing, there is no pigment. The part of the skin that is affected thus becomes completely white. Since those who suffer from vitiligo more often have autoimmune thyroid disorders, there are theories that vitiligo would also be autoimmune. When an illness is autoimmune, it means that the body’s immune system attacks its own tissue and causes damage. Vitiligo has nothing to do with albinism, another disease that prevents pigmentation in the body.
Although vitiligo is harmless, it can cause mental distress in those affected. The white spots may appear in areas that are not hidden by clothing, which can make a person with vitiligo pull away from social contexts. In some cases, the disease can lead to depression and anxiety.
Symptoms of vitiligo
The most obvious symptom of vitiligo is the typical skin changes. The affected skin becomes lighter, and it is usually sharply limited to the healthy skin that has the original skin color. Areas with vitiligo are usually round or oval. The skin does not usually peel. When seeking vitilogo care, it is usually quite easy for a physician to make a diagnosis based on how the white spots look and how they have developed over time.
Treatment of vitiligo
Unfortunately, there is no effective treatment for vitiligo. The research done on vitiligo has mainly resulted in realizing how complex the causes of the disease are. However, there is hope of finding better treatment methods in the future.
Today, for example, you can use some cosmetic creams to smooth the color temporarily when you have vitiligo in smaller areas. Different types of light treatments can help, but it is often a matter of going to lots of treatments with uncertain end effect over a long period of time. The treatment also does not prevent new areas with stains from appearing. Cortisone treatment has been used with some effect. However, cortisone can have side effects, such as brittle skin and the appearance of small blood vessels. Skin or cell transplant surgery has had an effect in some cases of local vitiligo. The disease can disappear on its own in exceptional cases, but in most cases you get larger areas with vitiligo over time.
Living with vitiligo
For many, it is about learning to accept the disease. If you feel mentally ill because of the illness and have depression or anxiety, you may need to seek care and get psychological help. However, it is important to use a high-strength sun protection factor in the pigment-free areas when staying in the sun. Also cover the white skin with clothing when exposed to sun.