hands showing vitiligo problem

Symptoms, Causes, Prevention & Treatment of Vitiligo

What exactly is vitiligo?

Vitiligo is a skin condition where a person's skin develops smooth white regions called macules or patches. The forearms, hands, feet, and face are usually the first to be affected. Vitiligo affects around 1% of the worldwide people. On a person's skin, smooth white spots emerge. The disorder arises when the body's immune system destroys melanocytes skin cells that create melanin, the chemical that gives skin its colour or pigmentation.

What are the different kinds of vitiligo?

Vitiligo can be caused by:

  • Macules form in many sites on the body in generalised macules, which is the most frequent variety.
  • Segmental refers to a condition that affects only one side of the body or a specific location, such as the hands or face.
  • Focal is an uncommon kind in which the macules are concentrated in a limited region and do not spread in a predictable manner over the course of one to two years.
  • Trichome signifies that there is a white or colourless core, followed by a lighter pigmented region, and finally a normal-coloured area.

What is the cause of vitiligo?

Even though the Vitiligo causes are unknown, there are a few possibilities that have been proposed:

  • Autoimmune disorder: A disease-ridden person's immune system may create antibodies that harm melanocytes.
  • Certain factors that may increase the likelihood of developing vitiligo can be inherited down the generations. Vitiligo runs in families in about 30% of cases.
  • Neurogenic factors: Nerve endings in the skin may release a substance that is toxic to melanocytes.
  • Self-destruction is characterized by a melanocyte deficit, which causes the cells to self-destruct.

Is vitiligo a painful condition?

Vitiligo is not a painful condition. Sunburns on lighter skin, on the other hand, can be very painful. Applying sunscreen, avoiding the sun during peak hours, and wearing protective clothing are all important ways to protect oneself from the sun.

Signs and symptoms of vitiligo

  • Skin colour fades in patches. 
  • The eyes, as well as the mucous membranes of the mouth and nose, might be affected.
  • Premature greying or whitening of hair on the head or face.

Other vitiligo symptoms include:

  • Premature greying or whitening of the hair
  • Loss of colour and whiteness of eyelashes or brows
  • The retina of the eye changes colour.
  • Otitis media of the ears or eyes, resulting in hearing loss and visual impairments.
  • The appearance of skin patches, the extent to which the disorder spreads, and the rate at which it progresses differ from person to person.

Risk factor for vitiligo

The following variables have been linked to an increased risk of vitiligo:

  • Genes and Family History
  • Triggers in the Environment Vitiligo appears to be caused by a combination of pre-existing genetic composition and an immunological response that kills melanocytes triggered by something in the environment. Sunburn, exposure to certain chemicals, and skin damage or injury are all potential causes. These factors can also cause vitiligo to spread in persons who have had it.
  • Existence of an Autoimmune Disease Vitiligo is more likely to develop in those who have an autoimmune condition such as psoriasis, systemic lupus erythematosus, Hashimoto's disease, or alopecia areata.  A number of genes connected to vitiligo have also been linked to autoimmune diseases such as rheumatoid arthritis, type 1 diabetes, and thyroid illness.  

What other diseases are similar to vitiligo?

Other disorders can cause the skin to change colour or decrease melanin. These are some of them:

  • Chemical leukoderma occurs when the skin cells are damaged by certain industrial chemicals, resulting in linear or splotchy white regions of the skin.
  • Tinea versicolor is a plant that grows in a variety of colours. This yeast infection can result in dark patches on lighter skin or light spots on darker skin.
  • Albinism is a hereditary disorder in which the skin, hair, and/or eyes have decreased quantities of melanin.
  • Pityriasis alba is a kind of Pityriasis. This disorder begins with red, scaly patches of skin that diminish into scaly, lighter patches.

Vitiligo treatment

Vitiligo has no known cure. The purpose of medical therapy is to achieve a consistent skin tone by either depigmenting or removing the existing pigment. Camouflage therapy, repigmentation therapy, light therapy, and surgery are all effective therapies. Therapy may be suggested as well.

Vitiligo Treatment Options: Medication and Surgery

Medications can sometimes help to reduce the symptoms of vitiligo. 

  • Creams containing corticosteroids
  • Topical vitamin D analogues, ointments including tacrolimus or pimecrolimus 
  • Topical immunomodulators, such as calcineurin inhibitors, control the immunological response of the skin.
  • UVA light treatment combined with the oral medicine psoralen may be particularly useful if you have vast regions of vitiligo-affected skin.
  • Monobenzone lotion is used to remove pigment from unaffected skin.
  • Skin grafting, blister grafting, and tattooing are all examples of surgery.
  • Scarring, dry and itchy skin, and streaky skin are some of the undesirable side effects of some of these therapy methods.
  • Some serums also help in the treatment of vitiligo like skin conditions.

Take Away

Vitiligo is a skin condition characterised by the appearance of white patches on the skin. As there is no cure for this skin condition, there are various medical therapies and surgeries that can be carried out.