Vitiligo – Causes, Symptoms and Treatment Methods

Vitiligo or leukoderma is a chronic skin condition that causes loss of pigment, resulting in irregular pale patches of skin. The disease has been around for thousands of years. Vitiligo occurs in 1-2% of the population. It affects both races and all ages. It is an acquired progressive disorder in which some or all of the melanocytes in the interfollicular epidermis, and occasionally those in the hair follicles, are selectively destroyed. Vitiligo usually starts as small areas of pigment loss that spread and become larger with time. The cause is not known. Vitiligo may be an autoimmune disease. These diseases happen when your immune system mistakenly attacks some part of your own body. The hair may also go grey early on the scalp, eyebrows, eyelashes and body. White hair is called ‘poliosis’. The retina may also be affected. There is an increased incidence in some families. Vitiligo is more noticeable in darker skinned people because of the contrast of white patches against dark skin.

People with vitiligo have an increased risk of developing autoimmune diseases, such as hypothyroidism. The location of vitiligo affected skin changes over time, with some patches re-pigmenting and others becoming affected. In vitiligo, the immune system may destroy the melanocytes in the skin. It is also possible that one or more genes may make a person more likely to get the disorder. Half the patients first notice vitiligo before 20 years of age. It often appears in an area of minor injury or sunburn. The patches can be confined to a limited area of the body, be widespread or even cause total pigment loss. Vitiligo may appear at any time from birth to senescence, though the onset is most commonly observed in persons aged 10-30 years. There is no cure for vitiligo. The goal of treatment is to stop or slow the progression of depigmentation and, if you desire, attempt to return some color to your skin.

Causes of Vitiligo

The common causes and risk factor’s of Vitiligo include the following:

The exact cause of vitiligo isn’t known.

Vitiligo sometimes runs in families, meaning that a genetic factor may be involved.

It sometimes occurs at the site of an old injury.

Vitiligo is more noticeable in darker skinned people because of the contrast.

Other causes of white skin ( leukoderma ) include severe trauma, burns, and deep skin infections.

Symptoms of Vitiligo

Some symptoms related to Vitiligo are as following:

Loss or change in color of the inner layer of your eye (retina).

Sudden or gradual appearance of flat areas of normal-feeling skin with complete pigment loss.

People with vitiligo often have hair that turns gray early.

Loss of color in the tissues that line the inside of your mouth (mucous membranes).

Family history of vitiligo.

Treatment of Vitiligo

Here is list of the methods for treating Vitiligo:

Patients with vitiligo should take a B-complex multivitamin each day. Also take Folic Acid 1 mg, Vitamin E 600 – 800 IU, and ascorbic acid 1000 mg a day.

A potent anti-inflammatory cortisone cream may reverse the process if applied to the affected areas for a few weeks in their early stages.

Vitamin D ointment by prescription can help some people with vitiligo.

If the affected person is pale-skinned, the patches can be made less visible by avoiding sunlight and the sun tanning of unaffected skin.

Narrowband UVB phototherapy has recently also been shown to be helpful in some patients, particularly in combination with calcipotriol cream (usually used in psoriasis ).

Patients who have small areas of vitiligo with stable activity are candidates for surgical transplants.