Vitiligo is a condition in which one’s skin loses melanin, the pigment that determines the color of your skin, hair and eyes. When the cells that produce melanin die or no longer form melanin, white patches of irregular shapes appear on your skin. Vitiligo usually starts as small areas of pigment loss that spread and become larger with time.
Although the causes of vitiligo aren’t completely understood, there are a number of different theories:
The affected person’s immune system may develop antibodies that destroy melanocytes.
Certain factors that may increase the chance of getting vitiligo can be inherited. About 30% of vitiligo cases run in families.
A substance that is toxic to melanocytes may be released at nerve endings in the skin.
A defect in the melanocytes causes them to destroy themselves.
Stress, trauma, allergy and sunburn
Vitiligo affect people of all ages, gender and race.
There are beliefs (which are not facts) that vitiligo is caused by:
There is no cure for vitiligo. The goal of medical treatment is to create a uniform skin tone by either restoring color (repigmentation) or eliminating the remaining color (depigmentation). Common treatments include camouflage therapy, repigmentation therapy, light therapy and surgery. Counseling is also very much recommended.
Using sunscreen with an SPF of 30 or higher. Also, the sunscreen should shield ultraviolet B light and ultraviolet A light (UVB and UVA). Use of sunscreens minimizes tanning, thereby limiting the contrast between affected and normal skin.
Makeups (cosmetics) help camouflage depigmented areas.
Hair dyes if vitiligo affects the hair.
Depigmentation therapy with the drug monobenzone can be used if the disease is extensive. This medication is applied to pigmented patches of skin and will turn them white to match the areas of vitiligo
Corticosteroids can be taken orally (as a pill) or topically (as a cream put on the skin). Results may take up to 3 months.
Topical vitamin D analogs.
Topical immunomodulators such as calcineurin inhibitors.
Narrow band ultraviolet B (NB-UVB) requires two to three treatment sessions per week for several months.
Excimer lasers emits a wavelength of ultraviolet light close to that of narrow band UVB. This is better for patients who do not have widespread or large lesions since it is delivered to small, targeted areas.
Combining oral psoralen and UVA (PUVA) is used to treat large areas of skin with vitiligo. This treatment is said to be very effective for people with vitiligo in the areas of the head, neck, trunk, upper arms and legs.
Skin grafts: Skin is taken from one part of the patient and used to cover another part. Possible complications include scarring, infection or a failure to repigment. This might also be called mini grafting
Micropigmentation: A type of tattooing that is usually applied to the lips of people affected by vitiligo.
Vitiligo can cause psychological distress and has the ability to affect a person’s outlook and social interactions. If this happens, your caregiver may suggest that you find a counselor or attend a support group.
The most common pattern, wide and randomly distributed areas of depigmentation.
Pigmentation encompasses most of the body.
One or a few scattered macules in one area; most common in children
Fingers and Periorificial areas
Pigmentation of only the mucous membranes
Vitiligo can cause psychological distress and has the ability to affect a person's outlook and social interactions. If such skin loss happens to you, it is advised that you seek a dermatologist, a counsellor and also look out for a vitiligo support group available in your community or come to our VAU offices at Plot 21, Kira Road, Kamwokya.