Vitiligo is a chronic disorder that causes depigmentation of the skin. Vitiligo occurs when melanocytes (the cells that make pigment) die or otherwise stop working. Affects both men and women equally, but races with darker skin are more prone to develop Vitiligo. The cause is unknown, however, research suggests that the condition may occur as a result of an autoimmune disorder.
The disease can be a genetic disorder, passed down from parents to their children. It is a rare disorder, affecting only about 1% of the population worldwide. One to two million people in the United States suffer, with an estimated 65 million people across the world affected.
Signs And Symptoms
As the disorder itself suggests, depigmentation of patches of the skin is the most common sign. These patches are white, and usually found on the hands, face, feet, wrists, and other extremities. Vitiligo is also often found on the arm pits, genitals, and areas exposed to the sun. Starting small, the depigmentation associated with it usually grows larger over time. IT is most noticeable around the eyes, mouth, and face. The depigmentation of the skin is rapid, but there can be slow periods where no pigmentation is occurring.
Depigmentation also occurs on the mucus membranes and on the retina. Vitiligo can also cause the hairs growing in these affected areas to turn white. In addition, people with the disease may also experience premature graying of the eyebrows, hair, and beard. Those with dark skin may also notice a loss of color on the insides of their mouth.
Can occur any time in life, however, it is most common in one’s early years. 95% of the population who develop it will develop the disorder before the age of 40, and most people will show signs and symptoms between the ages of 10 and 30 years old.
Generally appears in one of three patterns: focal pattern – depigmentation limited to one or only a few areas, segmental pattern – depigmented patches that develop on one side of the body, or generalized pattern, the most common pattern. Depigmentation occurs symmetrically on both sides of the body.
Both focal pattern and segmental pattern Vitiligo will not spread to other areas of the body. Those with generalized pattern may be affected anywhere on the body, and there is no way to know if it will or will not spread.
Aside from the physical appearance, those suffering with the disorder may alsoexperiencee several emotional stress because of the condition. Depression is often common in sufferers, especially when it occurs in visible parts of the body. Worrying about what others might say or what they are thinking, or even being embarrassed by the disorder often leads to patients facing physiological problems throughout their life.
Topical creams are most commonly given to patients. These steroidal topical creams can help color to reform on the skin, and are usually more beneficial the sooner they are used. Results take a minimum of three months to notice, however, it can take much longer.
Psoralen photochemotherapy is also used in treating. This type of therapy is time consuming, and also has many severe side effects that must be closely monitored by a doctor. Psoralen photochemotherapy helps to reform the pigment in the discolored patches of the skin. It can be used orally (by mouth), or topically (applied to the skin).
Depigmentation is also used as treatment. This type of treatment is best used for people whose Vitiligo disorder has affected more than 50% of their body, and involves the bleaching of the skin to match the rest of the body.