Is Vitiligo Curable? See Its Causes, Symptoms and Treatment

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Most might think or say that vitiligo is a rare skin condition but it is not. Vitiligo is one of the most common autoimmune skin diseases.

For us, especially women, waking up with an amazing skin is like a dream come true. But for most, being born with terrifying skin conditions like vitiligo or psoriasis or epidermolysis bullosa is like the worst nightmare. In this article in sound health solution, I’ll tell you everything you need to know about this rare autoimmune skin disorder, vitiligo. Keep scrolling!

What is Vitiligo?

At least 1% or 1 in 100 people develop vitiligo and more and more people are at now at the risk of vitiligo. Vitiligo is a type of skin disease that causes the loss of skin color in blotches. This results in the formation of uneven white patches on any part of your skin. One of the major disadvantage or say complications of this disease is that, the rate and the range of skin color loss are unpredictable.

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What Causes Vitiligo?

The color of the skin and hair, that’s usually dark is determined by the presence of pigment melanin. Vitiligo occurs when the cells that produce melanin die or stop functioning. Vitiligo affects people of all skin types, but it may be more noticeable in people with darker skin. Unlike other diseases, vitiligo does not cause any harm and it’s not contagious as well.

Nevertheless, the exact cause of vitiligo is still not known. Scientists and experts consider it to be an autoimmune disease. In general, our immune system attacks the foreign particles to prevent the disease. But due to certain genetic malfunctions, your immune system mistakenly attacks some part of your own body. For instance, in vitiligo, our immune system destroys the melanocytes of the skin causing the white patches on the skin.

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What are vitiligo signs and symptoms?

The major symptom of vitiligo is white patches on the skin. These patches are more common in areas where the skin is exposed to the sun. The patches may be on the hands, feet, arms, face, and lips. Some of the common signs of vitiligo include:

  • Patchy loss of skin color
  • Premature whitening or graying of the hair on your scalp, eyelashes, eyebrows or beard
  • Loss of color in the tissues that line the inside of your mouth and nose (mucous membranes)
  • Loss of or change in color of the inner layer of the eyeball (retina)

Vitiligo can affect anyone at any age. However, this disorder usually appears during the teen years, particularly before the age of 20.

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Will the Vitiligo Spread?

Unfortunately, skin experts and doctors do not exactly know whether or not the disease will spread. As said earlier, the extent of skin blotches is unpredictable. For some, the white patches remain constant and do not spread for the rest of their lives.

But often, the white patches will spread to other parts of the body without any physical symptoms. Some have reported the spreading triggered after physical or emotional stress while some reported that staying in sun for a long time or exposure to certain chemicals, triggered the formation of more patches on the skin.

What are the complications associated with vitiligo?

When you have vitiligo, you may be upset or depressed about the change in your appearance.

People with vitiligo may be at increased risk of:

  • Social or psychological distress
  • Depression
  • Sunburn and skin cancer
  • Eye problems, such as inflammation of the iris (iritis)
  • Hearing loss

What is the best treatment for vitiligo?

Fortunately, there are some best treatment options available for vitiligo.  But before I tell you the options, it’s important to know that there’s no cure for vitiligo. Treatment of vitiligo can be classified as:

Medical Treatment

  • Here your skin doctor advises you to use some creams and topical ointments such as topical corticosteroids and topical pimecrolimus on your skin to prevent the further spreading of the patches. Pimecrolimus is, however, not licensed for treating vitiligo, but they can be used to help restore skin pigment in adults and children with vitiligo. This type of cream is effective and easy to use. But it can cause side effects, such as skin thinning or the appearance of streaks or lines on your skin.
  • In addition to this, the treatment that uses medicine plus ultraviolet A (PUVA) can be carried out to treat vitiligo. This method inhibits the skin patches to rapidly multiply.

Surgical treatment

  • Here your doctor recommends you to go for skin grafting or skin pigmentation. In skin grafting, the surgeon removes small sections of your normal skin, which is unaffected by the vitiligo and affix them on the skin patches. This treatment, however, is only useful if you have small patches of vitiligo. Possible risks include infection, scarring, a cobblestone appearance, spotty color and failure of the area to recolor.
  • Another surgical treatment includes blister grafting. In this procedure, the surgeon creates blisters on the pigmented skin via suction. The procedure then follows the removal of blisters and transplantation on the area of discolored skin.
  • Micro-pigmentation aka tattooing is another technique that can be used effectively by people with darker complexions. Tattooing pigments on your skin that has white patches or around the lips are effective to camouflage the disorder. Nevertheless, there are certain side effects of this treatment that includes skin infection or mismatching of the skin.

With vitiligo, there come many social and psychological problems like depression, isolation and so on. If you have vitiligo,  you might find it helpful if you join a vitiligo support group that can help you talk about it more out in the pen and be comfortable with your skin. Hence, your GP might also add cognitive behavioral therapy as your treatment option.

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