Causes, Symptoms, and Treatment Remedies

Vitiligo Treatment Remedies


The contents of this app are provided for educational purposes only and are not intended to diagnose, treat, cure, or prevent any disease or health condition. The information provided should not be considered as a substitute for the advice of a medical doctor or other healthcare professional.

What is Vitiligo?

Vitiligo is a condition that causes depigmentation of parts of the skin.

It occurs when skin pigment cells die or are unable to function.

The cause of vitiligo, aside from cases of contact with certain chemicals is unknown.

Research suggests it may arise from autoimmune, genetic, oxidative stress, neural, or viral causes.

This pigmentation disorder affects different parts of your body including the mucous membranes in the mouth and nose.

Vitiligo will rarely result in loss of life but may be a cause of stress and great discomfort. The condition is also not contagious

Autoimmune diseases such as the thyroid disease may cause vitiligo.

Treatment methods used to treat vitiligo concentrate on alleviating its symptoms and not to cure it.

Doctors only focus on improving the appearance of your skin.

The causes of this type of skin disorder are not clear, but researchers tag this problem to oxidative stress, genetic, neural, viral, and autoimmune causes.

Autoimmune diseases are set off by unnatural (abnormal) response of the body’s immune system against substances that normally exist in the body.

Immunosuppression medications are usually used by doctors to reduce such abnormal responses by the immune system.

Oxidative stress on the other hand occurs as a result of some imbalance between generation of free radicals and your body’s ability to detoxify the harmful effects associated with the free radicals.

Thyroid abnormalities are the most notable causes of this pigmentary disorder.

The clinical variants of vitiligo include trichrome vitiligo, marginal inflammatory vitiligo, quadrichrome vitiligo, blue vitiligo, and the Koebner phenomenon.

Trichrome vitiligo is a type of vitiligo that may manifest in three different colours; the affected area of the skin could appear as a white, brown, or tan patch of depigmentation.

Patients with marginal inflammatory vitiligo report signs of red lesions which often appear at the initial stage of the disease.

Blue vitiligo shows up as blue colourations while quadrichrome vitiligo results in dark brown colouration of the macules.

This skin condition is also classified according to the specific site or part of the body affected by depigmentation.

Localized vitiligo could be focal (macules appearing in a single area), segmental (macules show up in a dermatomal pattern), or mucosal (within the mucous membranes).

Generalized vitiligo on the other hand can be classified as acrofacial, vulgaris, or mixed.

Acrofacial vitiligo often occurs in periorificial areas or affects distal fingers

Vulgaris vitiligo usually appears as scattered white patches in various parts of the patient’s body.

In cases where a patient is diagnosed with both vulgaris and acrofacial vitiligo, he is said to have mixed vitiligo.

Vitiligo Symptoms

The various signs and symptoms of vitiligo revolve around the different forms of the lesions that occur on the patient’s skin.

The patches are initially small, but often grow and change shape.

In some cases, the borders could be convex in shape and with varying size.

These lesions are usually well delimitated and often start out as simple spots, which gradually grow paler, until they become the white patches typical of vitiligo.

The first lesions often occur on the patient’s face, forearms, hands, and feet.

Vitiligo may also affect one’s eyelids, hair, and any other parts of the body exposed to the sun.

The condition is also reported in armpits (and other body folds), around surrounding body openings, sites of injury, rectal areas, genitals, nostrils, groin area, or around moles.

Patients with vitiligo and stigmatized with the condition may also suffer mood disorders and depression.

Sometimes, itchiness may be reported by patients with vitiligo. This occurs when the edges of these patches become inflamed with some red tone.

Unlike other skin conditions that cause lesions on the skin surface, vitiligo does not lead to any irritation, discomfort, dryness, or soreness.

Some patients may also experience discoloured patches around their genitals, rectum, or armpits.

Early greying or whitening of the hair is also common on the scalp, beard, eyebrows, and eyelashes.

This usually occurs in patients with less than 35 years of age.

Apart from the general skin discolouration, a patient with vitiligo may also experience loss of colour (a bit of colour) in his retina.

Vitiligo Causes

The immediate result of non-productive melanocytes is lightening and whitening of the skin patches involved.

It is also not clear to scientists why these cells fail.

It is believed that some disorders in the immune system may trigger the death of melanocytes.

Such immune conditions that can trigger vitiligo are hyperthyroidism and hypothyroidism.

When this occurs, your hair, skin, and eyes lose their normal colour leading to the symptoms of vitiligo.

Autoimmune conditions are the main causes of non-segmental vitiligo.

In this case, your own defence system generates antibodies that fight healthy cells or tissues instead of viruses and other foreign cells.

In some people, the cause of the vitiligo symptoms has been linked to sun exposure (sunburn) and contact with industrial chemicals.

Segmental vitiligo is a type of vitiligo that results from the chemicals produced by the nerve endings of your skin (neurochemicals).

These chemicals are believed to have the capacity to poison melanocytes.

The cause of this skin disorder might also be neural or viral.

About 20 percent of those diagnosed with vitiligo gave an account of a family member diagnosed with the same condition.

Persons with a family history of the condition are therefore more susceptible to develop vitiligo than the general population.

Those with a family history of autoimmune conditions stand a higher risk of vitiligo than those without.

Studies also confirm that persons diagnosed with melanoma lymphoma are also more likely to suffer from vitiligo.

Early diagnosis is therefore very important for such persons.

Vitiligo Diagnosis

Diagnosis of vitiligo generally relies on the clinical findings to establish the nature of symptoms reported and the type of the condition.

On suspicion that you have vitiligo, your dermatologist reviews your medical records, and seeks specific answers, for instance, if anyone in your family has been diagnosed with the condition before.

Normally, a physical examination of the skin is performed.

To differentiate vitiligo from other hypopigmentary disorders, your doctor may carry out a biopsy of your skin.

The doctor examines a sample of your skin under a microscope to establish if there is any loss of pigment.

This will also allow your doctor to tell if the skin’s melanocytes are damaged or absent.

While examining the skin under the microscope, the doctor is also able to find out if there is epidermal vacuolization, any thickening (on the basement membrane), the number of Langerhans cells, and any notable changes in keratinocytes or melanocytes.

Your doctor may also perform Fontana-Masson staining or an immunohistochemistry test to highlight any loss of pigment or melanocytes.

Blood tests come in handy to rule out cases of auto immune conditions such as the thyroid disease.

Based on the blood tests, your doctor is able to assess the overall health of your thyroid gland.

A blood test is also important in ruling out pernicious anaemia as the possible cause of the vitiligo symptoms.

Pernicious anaemia is a condition where very little quantities of vitamin B12 are absorbed from the patient’s gastrointestinal (GI) tract.

An eye exam may be performed to check out if there is any loss of colour in your eye’s retina.

This can only be done by an ophthalmologist (an eye specialist).

Apart from the colour of the retina, an ophthalmologist may also look out for any signs of eye inflammation (uveitis).

Vitiligo Treatment

In laser therapy, light is used to repigment the patient’s skin.

This mode of treatment works best when the symptoms are on the face as opposed to hands or feet.

A light box or excimer laser is used.

It is also common for doctors to recommend PUVA light therapy for more widespread cases of vitiligo.

In this case, UVA light is used in conjunction with other psoralen to restore the patient’s skin colour.

PUVA light therapy is time consuming and would often require the patient to visit a PUVA centre at least twice in a week for about 12 months.

Psoralen affects eyes and an eye exam is therefore necessary after exposure to this type of treatment.

In some cases, doctors suggest steroid therapy. In this form of therapy, systematic steroids such as prednisone are used.

This mode of treatment is preferred for long-term treatment.

Your doctor may also recommend topical therapy. In this case, topical medicines are directly applied on the affected areas of the skin.

This helps in regimenting the skin.

Topical medicines such as topical corticosteroid are recommended for small areas.

For better results, topical therapy should be carried out alongside other forms of treatment.

Topical medicines work better when applied on the patches of the face than when used on hands or feet.

They are also more effective for persons with darker skins than for patients with fair skin (light-pigmented skin).

It should be noted that most topical medicines come with a number of side effects and monitoring by a dermatologist is very important.

One such side effect is skin atrophy whereby the patient’s skin becomes overly dry, paper-thin, and fragile.

Your doctor may recommend a number of re-pigmentation surgeries including thin dermoepidermal grafts, punch minigrafting, non-cultured epidermal suspensions, and suction epidermal grafting.

Surgical treatments are ideal for patients whose conditions are at least 6 months old.

No single surgical method of treatment is approved for children.

In some cases, your doctor may opt to transplant melanocytes to the affected regions of the body with the aim of repigmenting the skin.

During the procedure of melanocyte transplant, a thin layer of skin (pigmented) is extracted from the patient’s gluteal region and grafted in the affected areas.

Vitiligo Prevention

To lower the risk of developing vitiligo, doctors stress the importance of sun protection.

Dermatologists recommend that you apply sunscreen generously on the part of your skin not covered by cloth.

The sunscreen should have an SPF (sun protection factor) of at least 30 and be water-resistant.

Ensure that the sunscreen is marked as ‘broad spectrum’.

Doctors also advise that you apply the sunscreen on a daily basis, preferably, 15 minutes before sun exposure.

While outdoors, reapply the spectrum after every 2 hours under the sun.

Doctors also recommend that you wear clothes that shield you against the harmful radiations from the sun.

Sun lamps and tanning beds should not be used as substitutes for the sun.

Just like the sun, sun lamps and tanning beds may also aggravate the symptoms of vitiligo.

Avoid the urge to get a tattoo.

Tattoos may be considered as injury to the skin and this may ultimately lead to the Koebner phenomenon, a type of vitiligo caused by physical injury or trauma.

Vitiligo Statistics & Facts

The signs and symptoms associated with vitiligo vary one patient to another depending on the stage of infection and the type of infection.

Vitiligo is more prevalent in persons with darkly-pigmented skins than those with lighter ones.

It is estimated that 40-50 million people globally have been diagnosed with vitiligo.

This translated to 1-2 percent of the world population.

In the United States alone, it is estimated that 2 to 5 million Americans have been diagnosed with the condition.

One person out of every 136 people in the U.S. has vitiligo.

Half of those diagnosed with vitiligo experience loss of skin pigment before reaching the age of 20 years.

It is estimated that one third of those diagnosed with vitiligo have a family history of the condition.

It is also understood that 75 percent of all vitiligo patients put on PUVA therapy respond positively to the treatment.

Vitiligo Treatment Remedies plus

The contents of this app are provided for educational purposes only and are not intended to diagnose, treat, cure, or prevent any disease or health condition. The information provided should not be considered as a substitute for the advice of a medical doctor or other healthcare professional.

What is Vitiligo?

Vitiligo is a skin (pigmentation) disorder characterized by white patches on the surface of the skin.

This occurs when melanocytes, the cells responsible for the colour of your skin, are destroyed.

It is the work of melanocytes to produce melanin, a component that gives characteristic colour to your skin, and protects the skin against the harmful UV radiations.

Vitiligo is a perennial and long-term disorder. The affected regions of the skin may therefore stay as white patches of depigmentation for the rest of one’s life.

This condition has been reported in all races, but more prevalent in persons with dark skins than in those with lighter skins.

Vitiligo Symptoms

The only sign of vitiligo is the presence of pale patchy areas of depigmented skin which tend to occur on the extremities.

These lesions are as a result of the rapid loss of pigment that gives the skin its distinctive colour.

The lesions could be white in colour or hypopigmented.

For some patients, the lesions may be oval, round, or resembling some linear shape.

The size may range from a few millimetres to a number of centimetres.

Vitiligo Causes

Researchers have suggested a number of theories to explain the cause of vitiligo.

It is however, generally agreed that this pigmentary condition will occur when melanocytes are destroyed.

Lack of melaoncytes (pigment) is the prime cause of vitiligo.

Harm to the skin (physical trauma) through injury, cut, or serious sunburn could increase your risk of developing vitiligo.

Stress is also considered as one of the trigger factors for this skin condition.

Vitiligo Treatment

A number of nonsurgical treatments have been effectively used to ease the symptoms associated with vitiligo.

Doctors use systemic phototherapy to induce cosmetically satisfactory re-pigmentation in over 70 percent of patients those diagnosed with vitiligo.

Where the patches associated with vitiligo are limited, laser therapy has been proved to be effective.

Laser treatment may be combined with other forms of treatments such as topical corticosteroid for strong results.

Sometimes, doctors suggest micro-pigmentation where tattoos are used to re-pigment de-pigmented skin areas in patients who are dark-skinned.

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