What is Vitiligo?
Vitiligo is a medical condition that causes the loss of skin color, resulting in white patches on various parts of the body. This condition occurs when the melanin-forming cells die, or stop producing melanin. These melanin-forming cells are responsible for the pigmentation that gives color to your hair, skin, and eyes.
Symptoms of Vitiligo
• Skin discoloration (feet, arms, face, and lips)
• Loss or change in color of the inner layer of the eyeball (retina)
• Premature whitening or graying of the hair or on your scalp, eyelashes, eyebrows, or beard. (Usually before the age of 35)
• Discolored patches around the armpits, navel, genitals, rectum, and nostrils
Types of Vitiligo
• Generalized Vitiligo – this is the most common type of Vitiligo, and it progresses symmetrically on various parts of the body
• Segmental Vitiligo – this type only focuses only one side or part of the body and normally occurs at a younger age. It progresses for one to two years and then stops.
• Focal Vitiligo – only appears on one area or a few areas of the body
When testing/diagnosing for this medical condition, many physicians will do various exams to get a proper diagnosis of what form of Vitiligo you may have. Here are a few exams that your physician may do while in your care:
• Reviewing your medical history
• Blood test
• Skin biopsy – taking a small sample of the affected skin to be examined
• Eye exam
There is no cure for this medical condition, but there are many medical and surgical treatments. The ultimate goal of these treatments is to slow the progression of the condition.
• Medical creams that help to control inflammation
• A form of Vitamin D such as a cream that can be used with ultraviolet light or with corticosteroids
• Light therapy – uses narrow band UVB light and may be administered up to 3 times a week.
• Laser Therapy – this process brings some color back to the whit patches by treating them with an excimer laser.
• Depigmentation – requires fading or removing the rest of the skin on your body to match the white patches
• Skin grafting – this procedure allows the doctor to remove small sections of your skin that have not been affected and attach them to small patches that have lost pigmentation.
• Blister grafting – during this procedure your physician uses suction to create blisters on the pigmented skin. The blisters are then removed and placed on the discolored skin.