Vitiligo is a long-term skin condition that causes white patches to develop due to lack of melanin, a pigment responsible for giving skin its characteristic color. It can affect any part of the body, but commonly appear on sun-exposed areas of the body, such as hands, face, and neck. Both men and women of all races can develop Vitiligo. It is more visible in dark-skinned people. Vitiligo also augments the risk of sunburn and the development of skin cancer in people. It is not a contagious condition. However, people with Vitiligo often experience social or psychological distress.
Melanin is the pigment that gives skin its color and provides pigmentation for eyes, hair, and other body parts. Skin cells appear white when the melanocytes (melanin-producing cells) are destroyed. Vitiligo takes place due to the loss of pigment in the skin, which is due to the destruction of melanocytes, also known as pigment-forming cells. People with a family history of Vitiligo or early graying of hair are at more risk of getting Vitiligo. It is also associated with other diseases such as Addison’s disease, hyperthyroidism, and pernicious anemia. People working in a prolonged exposure to phenolic chemicals are also at risk. Excessive stress or exposure to the sun may also trigger pigment loss. Many people develop vitiligo in their 20s, but it can occur at any age. However, the exact cause of vitiligo is still not known.
Symptoms include the advent of uneven white patches or various notches of depigmentation on the body. People often notice white patches in some areas first including feet, arms, hands, lips and face. Other common areas for white patches to appear are the nostrils, navel, groin, genitals, eyes, and armpits. Patients may also experience loss of color in the hair (facial hair, eyelashes, eyebrows and head). There is no way to know if these white patches will spread to other areas, but when they do spread, they can grow very quickly. Vitiligo doesn’t cause any dryness in the skin, soreness, irritation and any other type of discomfort. The shape of these patches are completely irregular and the edges can become little inflamed sometimes, resulting in itchiness.
Diagnosis and Treatment
The doctor will run physical exams and tests to diagnose Vitiligo. Tests might include a blood test and taking a sample biopsy of the affected skin. He will also review your medical history and may ask specific questions. It is a myth that Vitiligo treatment is impossible. The majority of patients can achieve good results with the right treatment. Treatment varies from one person to another and the choice of treatment depends on how widespread the patches are. Treatment may be most helpful if it can be started when only a small area is affected. Several methods include skin grafting, depigmentation of unaffected skin areas, corticosteroid, re-pigmentation with the help of UV rays, PUVA light therapy (uses UVA light to restore skin color), cosmetic options (skin dye, a self-tanner, and makeup) and counselling.
Vitiligo is painless but can be devastating for an individual’s self-respect. People with Vitiligo often become the focus of attention in public places, getting frowned up and asked questions. Pop singer Michael Jackson and entertainer named Arthur Wright also suffered from this condition. It is not just a cosmetic problem, but is a major social calamity that utterly limits their capability to live a normal life.
Coping with Vitiligo
It is very important to understand that Vitiligo is a skin disease and not an embarrassment. Do regular exercise, meditation or yoga to keep stress at bay that comes with this problem. Consume food rich in antioxidants such as green leafy vegetables, fresh fruits, berries, and nuts. Apply a sunblock with an SPF of 30 or more to protect the affected areas from the sun. Don’t rub or scratch the affected area as this can trigger the formation of new patches.
Use cosmetics to cover white patches, it will help you feel better about your appearance. Talk to your friends and family members, you can also find a Vitiligo group for an emotional support. Visit your dermatologist to learn about the disorder and treatment choices. He will help you make decisions about your treatment.
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