Vitiligo is a relatively common skin condition, but it isn’t talked about very much. People who have vitiligo can feel alone and ostracized, but the best way to fight those feelings is to learn more about vitiligo and talk about it. Visiting a dermatologist serving Fort Morgan and beyond can provide personalized treatment and more information. Here are five things you may not know about vitiligo.
It causes white patches of skin.
Vitiligo is a condition that creates white patches on the skin. Vitiligo can affect all areas of the body, and most people who have the condition experience white patches on multiple areas of their body. The lighter patches can be any size and often grow over time. An area of skin may start looking lighter and eventually turn completely white. White patches can change, and some people noticed cycles of pigment loss as the color changes or the white areas get larger. However, it’s rare for pigment to return fully to areas once they have turned white.
Vitiligo can occur all over the body.
Vitiligo patches commonly occur around the knees and armpits and areas that are often exposed to sunlight like the hands, arms, and face, but they can occur all over the body. Some people even have white patches inside their mouths, and on occasion, a patch of hair or part of the eye can turn white.
It is caused by a loss of melanin.
Melanocytes are the cells in the body that cause skin pigmentation. People who have vitiligo don’t have those cells or they have been destroyed in certain areas of the body. Scientists have yet to discover the reason for the loss of melanin, but many people hypothesize it could be an autoimmune condition that turns the body on itself instead of attacking germs and outside cells. In order to be diagnosed with vitiligo, patients visit the doctor for a complete physical and to discuss their medical history and when the white patches began to appear. The doctor can look at the white or lightened areas of skin under a UV lamp to rule out other skin conditions. On occasion, the doctor may require a skin biopsy to test for cells that produce pigment.
Vitiligo can affect anyone.
Vitiligo impacts all genders and races equally, although it tends to be more noticeable in people with darker skin. Around 2% of the U.S. population has vitiligo, and it may run in families. Having a relative with vitiligo or having other autoimmune diseases such as diabetes or a thyroid condition could possibly increase your chances of getting vitiligo. Most people notice the condition between ages 10 and 30, and it almost always manifests itself before the person turns 40 years old. Vitiligo isn’t contagious.
There’s no prevention or cure.
A lot of research is still being done about vitiligo, but scientists have yet to find a cure or a way to prevent it from occurring. Vitiligo isn’t dangerous and hasn’t been linked to causing any other health or skin issues.
Topical treatments are available, such as covering the affected areas with makeup or using corticosteroid creams. A dermatologist may also be able to use UV light therapy to re-pigment the white areas, although that isn’t always effective. Other treatment options include skin grafts, UV light therapy, or oral steroid medications. Before starting a treatment plan, meet with a dermatologist to determine the safest and most effective treatment options.
Vitiligo can be life-altering. Although it doesn’t have any serious health issues, it can impact how a person sees themselves and has been linked to psychological issues. One of the best ways to encourage people with vitiligo is to learn more about the condition and break the stigma. Learning about this fairly common skin condition can help patients better understand what is happening to their body.