Of the thousands of things that we can encounter throughout life and that affect our health and even our physical appearance, vitiligo is one of those that bring more doubts.
What is Vitiligo?
Vitiligo is a long-term problem where parts of the skin lose color . It can affect people of any age, gender or ethnic group. The spots appear when the melanocytes (cells responsible for the production of melanin) inside the skin die.
The area affected by vitiligo varies between individuals. Including the eyes, the inside of the mouth and the hair. In most cases, these areas remain discolored for the rest of the vid and affect between 0.5 and 2% of people worldwide.
The only symptom of vitiligo is the appearance of white patches on the skin . The first spot that becomes noticeable is often in an area that tends to be exposed to the sun.
It starts out as a single spot, a little paler than the rest of the skin, but, over time, it becomes paler until it becomes white. The spots are irregularly shaped, sometimes the edges may become slightly inflamed with a slight red hue, resulting in itching.
Increased Skin Sensitivity
However, it does not cause discomfort, irritation, pain or dry skin. Vitiligo is photosensitive . The affected areas will be more sensitive to sunlight than those that are not.
It is difficult to predict whether they will spread and to what extent . The spread can take weeks, or can remain stable for months or years. The effects of vitiligo vary between people.
Some may have only white spots that don’t develop anymore, while others develop larger white spots that stick together and affect larger areas of the skin. Vitiligo tends to be more visible in people with dark or tanned skin.
Causes of Vitiligo
The exact causes of vitiligo are not clear, but a number of factors can contribute. These include:
- an autoimmune disorder, in which the immune system becomes overactive and destroys melanocytes
- a genetic imbalance of oxidative stress
- a stressful event
- damage to the skin due to a critical burn or cut
- exposure to some chemicals
- a neural cause
- heredity, as it can be carried out in families
Important: Vitiligo is not contagious.
Types of Vitiligo
There are two types of vitiligo:
Non-segmented vitiligo – Non-segmented vitiligo is the most common type, representing up to 90% of cases. The spots usually appear equally on both sides of the body, with some measure of symmetry.
They usually appear on skin commonly exposed to the sun, such as the face, neck and hands.
Common areas include:
- back of hands
- armpit and groin
- belly button
- genitals and rectal area
However, they can also appear in other areas.
Non-segmented vitiligo is divided into subcategories:
- Generalized : there is no specific area or size of tiles. This is the most common type.
- Acrofacial : occurs mainly in the fingers or toes.
- Mucosal : appears mainly around the mucous membranes and the lips.
- Universal : Depigmentation covers most of the body. It’s very rare.
- Focal : One, or a few scattered spots, develop in a discreet area. Most often it occurs in young children.
Segmental vitiligo – Segmental vitiligo spreads more quickly , but is considered to be more constant and stable than the non-segmented type. It is much less common and affects only about 10% of people with vitiligo. It is not symmetrical.
It is most notable in early age groups, affecting about 30 percent of children diagnosed with vitiligo. Segmental vitiligo usually affects areas of the skin connected to the nerves that arise in the dorsal roots of the spine. It responds well to topical treatments.
Treatment for Vitiligo
More than an aesthetic problem, vitiligo is a health problem that needs medical attention. A number of remedies can help to decrease the visibility of the condition.
The use of a sunscreen is recommended, because the lightest spots on the skin are especially sensitive to sunlight and can burn easily.
Phototherapy with UVB light
Exposure to ultraviolet B (UVB) lamps is a common treatment option. Home treatment requires a small lamp and allows daily use, which is more effective.
Phototherapy with UVA light
UVA treatment is usually conducted in a health care setting. First, the patient takes a drug that increases the skin’s sensitivity to UV light. Then, in a series of treatments, the affected skin is exposed to high doses of UVA light.
In cases of mild vitiligo, the patient can camouflage some of the patches based on skin. You must select the shade that best matches that of the skin.
When the affected area is widespread, covering 50 percent of the body or more, depigmentation may be an option. This reduces the color of the skin in unaffected parts to match the whiter areas.
Corticosteroid ointments are creams containing steroids. Some studies have concluded that the application of topical corticosteroids to the stains can stop the spread of vitiligo. Others reported the complete restoration of the original skin color.
Calcipotriene is a form of vitamin D used as a topical ointment for vitiligo. Can be used with corticosteroids or mild treatment. Side effects include rashes, dry and itchy skin.
Drugs that affect the immune system
Calcineurin-inhibiting ointments can help with minor vitiligo stains. However, there is a connection between these drugs and skin cancer and lymphoma.
Psoralen can be used with UVA or UVB light therapy, as it makes the skin more susceptible to UV light. As the skin heals, a more normal color sometimes returns. It is not recommended for children under 10 years.
In a skin graft, a surgeon carefully removes healthy parts of pigmented skin and uses them to cover areas with vitiligo. This procedure is not very common, because it takes time and can result in scarring in the area where the skin was removed and in the area where it is placed.
Surgery is used to implant pigment into the skin. It works best around the lips, especially on people with darker skin.
Inconveniences can include difficulty matching skin color and the fact that tattoos disappear, but do not tan. Sometimes, skin damage caused by the tattoo can trigger another vitiligo stain.
Is there a cure for Vitiligo?
Unfortunately there is still no cure for vitiligo, however, there are several researches for cure or treatment that have shown promising results.
What complications can Vitiligo cause?
Vitiligo does not develop other diseases, but people with the condition are more likely to experience:
- painful sunburn
- Hearing loss
- changes in vision and tears production
- thyroid problems,
- Addison’s disease
- tireoidite de Hashimoto
- Diabetes type 1
- pernicious anemia
Most people with vitiligo do not have these conditions, but tests can be done to rule them out.
Overcoming Social Challenges
If skin patches are visible, the social stigma of vitiligo can be difficult to deal with. Embarrassment can lead to self-esteem problems and, in some cases, anxiety and depression.
People with darker skin are more likely to face difficulties, because the contrast is greater. In India, vitiligo is known as “white leprosy”. Raising awareness of vitiligo can help people with the condition overcome these difficulties.
See also: Alopecia: Main Causes, Symptoms and Treatments
My name is Dr. Alexis Hart I am 38 years old, I am the mother of 3 beautiful children! Different ages, different phases 16 years, 12 years and 7 years. In love with motherhood since always, I found it difficult to make my dreams come true, and also some more after I was already a mother.
Since I imagined myself as a mother, in my thoughts everything seemed to be much easier and simpler than it really was, I expected to get pregnant as soon as I wished, but it wasn’t that simple. The first pregnancy was smooth, but my daughter’s birth was very troubled. Joana was born in 2002 with a weight of 2930kg and 45cm, from a very peaceful cesarean delivery but she had already been born with congenital pneumonia due to a broken bag not treated with antibiotics even before delivery.