Vitiligo is a skin condition characterized by the loss of pigment in the skin, resulting in white patches or spots. It may affect any part of the body and is caused by the loss or destruction of pigment-producing cells called melanocytes. The exact cause of vitiligo is not fully understood, but it is thought to be a combination of genetic and environmental factors. At Academic Alliance in Dermatology, we are dedicated to providing high-quality care for patients with vitiligo.
Vitiligo symptoms may include white patches or spots on the skin, loss of color in the mucous membranes (such as the inside of the mouth or nose), and loss of color in the hair (including the eyebrows and eyelashes). Vitiligo may also cause a loss of pigment in the iris of the eye, resulting in blue or pale eyes.
The symptoms of vitiligo may develop at any age, but the white patches associated with the condition usually begin to appear before 20 and may start as early as childhood.
Risk Factors for Vitiligo
There are several risk factors that may increase an individual’s likelihood of developing vitiligo, including:
- Family history: Those with a family history of vitiligo are more likely to develop the condition themselves.
- Other autoimmune conditions: Those with other autoimmune disorders, such as thyroid disease or rheumatoid arthritis, are more likely to develop vitiligo.
- Stress: Stress or emotional trauma has been linked to the onset of vitiligo in some individuals.
- Sun exposure: Excessive sun exposure or sunburn may trigger the onset of vitiligo in some people.
- Chemical exposure: Certain chemicals, such as those found in some hair dyes and industrial chemicals, may increase the risk of developing vitiligo.
Furthermore, those with melanoma or non-Hodgkin lymphoma may have an increased risk of developing vitiligo. In some cases, being treated for melanoma with immunotherapy may also trigger the onset of vitiligo.
Vitiligo Treatment Options
To diagnose vitiligo, a dermatologist will first review your medical history and examine your skin. A Wood’s lamp may be used to better visualize the affected areas of skin. If you have vitiligo, your dermatologist may recommend a blood test. Those with the condition have a higher risk of developing other autoimmune diseases. A blood test will help your doctor determine if you have any other conditions related to vitiligo.
Unfortunately, there is no cure for vitiligo. However, many people choose to leave vitiligo untreated and embrace the changes to their skin’s appearance. If you do want to treat your vitiligo, there are several treatment options available. These include:
Light therapy, also known as phototherapy, is a treatment option for vitiligo. During light therapy, the affected areas of the skin are exposed to ultraviolet light, which stimulates the production of melanin and helps to restore pigmentation. Phototherapy works slowly, and you may need to receive several treatments in order to see results. Light therapy is most effective at restoring face and neck pigmentation.
Topical Treatments and Medications
Prescription corticosteroids may be an effective treatment option for those who have recently developed vitiligo. However, due to the potential side effects of corticosteroids, they are used only for a short period of time.
Other topical treatments, such as tacrolimus ointment, pimecrolimus cream, and calcipotriene, may also be prescribed. These treatments may restore pigment and reduce the appearance of white patches. Moreover, oral medications such as prednisone may be prescribed to help slow down the progression of vitiligo.
If more conservative treatment methods have not worked, you may opt for a surgical procedure such as skin grafting or cell transplantation. During a skin graft, your surgeon will remove a thin layer of skin from an unaffected area and transplant it to the affected area.
Cell transplantation is similar but involves taking pigment cells, called melanocytes, from unaffected areas of the body and transplanting them to the affected area. Surgery isn’t recommended for those with active vitiligo or raised scars. Your dermatologist will assess your condition and determine if you are suitable for surgery.
Makeup, Self-tanner, and Skin Dye
For those who want to reduce the appearance of their vitiligo patches, there are various camouflage treatments available. Makeup and self-tanners can be used to cover up the white patches and even out skin tone. Additionally, special dyes can be applied to the affected areas to help match the surrounding skin.
Find a Solution to Your Vitiligo
At Academic Alliance in Dermatology, our team of expert dermatologists is dedicated to helping you find the best treatment option for your vitiligo. We understand how difficult it may be to deal with the visible effects of vitiligo and are committed to helping you discover your treatment options.