Vitiligo is a skin disorder where white patches of depigmentation develop on the skin and keep enlarging. This disorder is long term and continuous in nature. The patches appear due to the death of melanocytes within the skin. Melanocytes are skin pigment producing cells, which produce melanin. Vitiligo can affect the skin of several areas, including the eyes, hair and the portion inside the mouth.
The causes of this disease are as follows:
- Autoimmune disorders in which the immune system of a patient becomes over reactive and the melanocytes are destroyed.
- This disease may also occur due to genetic oxidative stress imbalance.
- Stressful events may also lead to vitiligo.
- Harm or damage to the skin from sunburns or cuts also leads to vitiligo.
- Exposure of the skin to several harmful chemicals may be a cause.
- Neural disorders are also responsible for vitiligo.
- Vitiligo may also happen from viral causes or may be hereditary and passed on from family members.
Vitiligo has only one major symptom. White, flat spots and patches develop on the surface of the skin. The earliest of these white patches appear on the parts of the body which are exposed to the sun continuously.
It starts off as a simple spot in the beginning and gradually, the spot starts getting pale and finally turns white. The patches have irregular shapes, and in some cases the edges get inflamed and are red in color. Itchiness is experienced in the affected areas. Symmetrical patches signify slow development of vitiligo.
The two major types of vitiligo are:
- Non segmental vitiligo, which affects the back of the hand, the arms, knees, elbows, feet, mouth.
- Segmental vitiligo, which is more stable than non segmental vitiligo, but spreads faster. It usually affects areas of the skin, which are attached to nerves.
The different methods of treatment for vitiligo are:
- Phototherapy with UVB and UVA light: Exposing the affected area of the skin to UVB lamps is a popular cure for vitiligo. This treatment can be performed easily at home. UVA treatment incorporates taking of a drug which makes the skin more sensitive to ultraviolet light and then the skin is exposed to high doses of UVA light.
- Skin Camouflage: Cosmetic creams and makeup can be used to camouflage affected areas of the skin. These topical creams are waterproof.
- Depigmentation: Depigmentation is used to treat widespread areas affected by vitiligo. The skin color of the unaffected areas is reduced in order to match the affected areas. It is done using topical ointments.
Vitiligo is a skin disease, the major causes of which are still to be discovered. Proper care and treatment should be taken for skin areas affected by vitiligo.