The Vitiligo is a chronic skin disease characterized by the appearance of depigmented areas due to loss of activity of the cells responsible for pigmentation. A disease characterized by the appearance of white lesions of variable size and progressively evolving.
What is it?
Vitiligo is known as a disease that causes the progressive loss of color in certain areas of the skin . It can affect people of all ages and races equally, although it is more common in people with darker skin and usually occurs before the age of 20.
Both the extent and speed of color loss from this disease are impossible to predict. Vitiligo can affect any area of the body, including the face and hair ; in some cases the discoloration of the skin has even affected the inside of the mouth.
The direct cause of this disorder is that the cells responsible for the production of melanin stop working. The consequences of vitiligo in the vast majority of occasions have to do with the loss of self – esteem and security of the person. However, it is not a life-threatening disease, nor is it contagious.
As for the treatment of vitiligo, thanks to medical advances, the color of the skin of the affected area can be restored. However, in no case can it prevent loss of color.
There are different types of vitiligo, depending on the area of the body where the spots appear.
- Generalized: it is known as such to one in which the spots without color appear in a very similar way in certain areas of the body. It is the most frequent type of all.
- Segmental: as its name suggests, it affects only one side or one area of the body. It usually occurs at a very young age; then it progresses for a couple of years and after that time it stops.
- Focal: focal vitiligo is one that only affects one or a few areas of the body.
Causes of vitiligo
As we have pointed out in the previous section, the direct cause of this disease is that the cells responsible for producing melanin , known as melanocytes, die or stop working . Despite the numerous investigations carried out on the subject, experts cannot determine today the reason why these cells cease their activity. As a consequence, lighter or white spots begin to appear in the affected areas.
Vitiligo is believed to be related to the following causes.
- Disorder of the immune system in which it attacks and destroys the melanocytes of the body.
- Vitiligo can also be an inherited disorder . Those with a family history are considered to be at higher risk for it.
- External factors, such as a sunburn or prolonged exposure to chemical products of industrial origin.
Vitiligo is a relatively simple disease to perceive since the symptoms are very noticeable and, in addition, totally different from those of any other disorder that affects the skin. The main sign of vitiligo is the loss of pigmentation in the skin , which occurs in an irregular and progressive way.
In the vast majority of occasions, changes are first observed in those areas exposed to sunlight, such as the hands, feet, face and arms.
As the disease progresses, it is common for the scalp, as well as the eyelashes, eyebrows or beard, to turn white or gray . Another symptom of vitiligo is the loss of color in the tissues that line the inside of both the mouth and the nose.
In the most severe cases of vitiligo, you can even see a loss of color in the retina .
From a medical point of view, predicting the progression of the disease is very difficult. In some cases the spots stop forming without any treatment. However, the most common is that the loss of pigmentation spreads, so that little by little it affects a large part of the body. The recovery of the original color of the skin occurs very rarely.
At the slightest suspicion of vitiligo, it is important to see a doctor to make a diagnosis and, based on it, establish the most appropriate treatment. First, ask the patient for their medical history , taking into account both symptoms and family history. He then proceeds to perform a physical examination to rule out other skin disorders, such as dermatitis or psoriasis . To do this, it uses a special lamp that projects ultraviolet light to determine the diagnosis of vitiligo.
Also, the doctor may order additional tests. One of the most common is taking a small sample of skin in the affected area . Also a blood test to detect if there is any type of autoimmune disease, such as anemia or diabetes , among others.
Vitiligo is a disease that has no treatment as such since the process cannot be stopped. However, there are different options and techniques to improve the appearance of the skin.
There are a number of medications that can greatly help restore lost skin tone.
- Anti-inflammatory creams: Applying anti-inflammatory creams to the affected area can be beneficial to greatly restore skin color. It is a treatment that must be used in the first phase of the disease to be truly effective.
- Medications for the immune system: there are also ointments and creams that are very helpful for those who have small areas of depigmentation, especially on the face and neck.
Depending on the diagnosis determined by the doctor in relation to vitiligo, the most appropriate treatment may be phototherapy . A technique that restores the original color to light spots caused by disease.
In those cases in which vitiligo is widespread and affects practically all parts of the body, depigmentation is another therapy that offers very good results. It consists of the application of a depigmenting substance in those areas of the skin that are not yet affected.
In cases where medications and therapies don’t work, surgery is another treatment option.
The most common technique is skin grafting. The doctor removes small parts of the normal pigmented skin and grafts them in those areas affected by vitiligo. It is a surgery with a series of risks that are interesting to know: infections, scars and uneven color.
In recent years, some cases of vitiligo, especially in dark-skinned people, have also used tattoos as a treatment. The doctor implants pigment in the skin using micropigmentation.
People with vitiligo are at high risk for the following complications.
- Psychological problems: a high percentage of people with vitiligo suffer a loss of self-esteem, especially when the spots affect visible areas such as the hands or face. In certain cases they isolate themselves, thus suffering great social and psychological anguish.
- Skin cancer: one of the possible consequences of vitiligo is skin cancer, one of the most common tumors today. The two most common types are basal cell cancer and squamous cell cancer, which form in the head, neck, hands, and arms.
- Iritis: In the most severe cases where vitiligo causes a loss of color in the rut, iritis can develop. It is known as an inflammation of the iris. It can affect one or both eyes, and the most common symptoms are pain, sensitivity to light, decreased vision, and headache.
- Hearing loss: Vitiligo can also cause progressive hearing loss, which can affect one or both ears.
How to live with vitiligo?
There are a number of basic skin care precautions and principles essential to living with this disease.
First of all, it is essential to protect the skin from the sun’s rays . Thus, it is very important to use a solar projector that has a factor of at least 50 throughout the year; if it is resistant to water, especially in summer, much better. It should be applied generously. Of course, you should also wear clothes that protect the skin from the sun. In this way burns are avoided, which can considerably worsen the disease.
From a psychological point of view, hiding the areas affected by vitiligo helps those who suffer from this disorder to feel better about themselves. Currently there are different makeup and tanning products on the market that help improve the appearance of the skin. It is best to consult with your doctor which ones are the most appropriate for each case.
And third and last, it is essential to avoid tattoos, even in areas not affected by vitiligo.
Vitiligo is a disease suffered by about 2% of people worldwide. It is a relatively well-known disorder since many celebrities have suffered from it, such as singer Michael Jackson and basketball player Rasheed Wallace. Also Winnie Harlow, model and current partner of Lewis Hamilton. The latter has made numerous collaborations with world-renowned fashion firms.
Hello Readers, I am Nikki Bella a Psychology student. I have always been concerned about human behavior and the mental processes that lead us to act and think the way we do. My collaboration as an editor in the psychology area of Well Being Pole has allowed me to investigate further and expand my knowledge in the field of mental health; I have also acquired great knowledge about physical health and well-being, two fundamental bases that are directly related and are part of all mental health.