Vitiligo is a skin condition in which the skin loses its colour or pigmentation. This causes the skin to seem lighter than normal or to turn white. This skin condition can affect individuals of any race. The contrast between normal skin tone and the white areas caused by vitiligo is more evident in people with darker skin, according to the National Institute of Arthritis and Musculoskeletal and Skin Diseases (NIAMS). Vitiligo causes skin colour loss in a variety of areas of the body. It is typically symmetrical, affecting both sides at the same time, such as both hands or both knees. Some people get discoloration in their mouth, on their scalp, or in their hair, lashes, or brows.
What is Vitiligo?
Vitiligo is a skin condition that causes depigmentation of certain areas of the skin, resulting in white patches on the skin. Areas of the skin that lose pigment are referred to as macules if they are less than one centimeter broad and patches if they are greater than one centimeter wide. If one has vitiligo on a hairy portion of the body, the hair may turn white or silver. The problem arises when one’s immune system destroys melanocytes in the body. Melanocytes are skin cells that create melanin, the substance responsible for skin coloration.
What are the Signs and Symptoms of Vitiligo?
Vitiligo symptoms and signs include:
- Skin or mucous membrane patches that have lost their colour. These can be white or lighter in colour than the natural skin tone.
- Hair on the body turns silver, grey, or white.
- Symptoms might be modest, affecting only a small area of the body, or severe, affecting a huge area of the skin. Before depigmentation begins, some people with vitiligo have itchy skin.
Where Will One Get Vitiligo Symptoms?
Vitiligo symptoms can arise anywhere on the body’s skin. The most prevalent sites for vitiligo symptoms are the following:
- Mucous membranes (membranes inside your mouth, lips, and nose).
- Penis (genitals).
What is the Cause of Vitiligo?
Vitiligo is caused by a lack of pigment in the skin (melanin). This occurs for unclear reasons. According to research, vitiligo could be caused by:
- Autoimmune Disorder: An autoimmune disorder occurs when the immune system misidentifies healthy cells (melanocytes) as foreign intruders, such as microorganisms that can harm the body. This causes the immune system to overreact and produce antibodies to attack the melanocytes.
- Genetic Mutations or Alterations: Genetic changes to the body’s DNA can affect melanocyte function. Over 30 genes have been linked to an increased risk of developing vitiligo.
- Stress: If one undergoes repeated mental or physical stress on the body, especially after an injury, the amount of pigment one’s melanocyte cells produce may alter.
- Environmental Factors: Environmental factors such as UV light and harmful chemical exposure can impact melanocyte cell function.
Effective Ways to Manage Vitiligo
In the majority of cases, vitiligo can be treated with medicine. Experts may recommend lotions or gels to be applied directly to the skin. A dermatologist’s supervision and experience are required for medical management. If more than 50% of the body’s surface area is depigmented due to vitiligo, a dermatologist can prescribe bleaching agents to diminish the pigmentation of normal skin surfaces. Certain lotions can also assist in whitening the normal skin to match the depigmented parts of the body.
Topical Treatments for Vitiligo
Topical treatments are available to help minimize the look of depigmented patches and enhance overall skin health. Steroid creams, vitamin D analogs, and calcineurin inhibitors are included. Topical corticosteroids are one such topical treatment. These are anti-inflammatory drugs that are frequently recommended as first-line vitiligo treatments. They act by suppressing the immune system and decreasing skin inflammation, which can help delay the evolution of the illness and facilitate repigmentation. To avoid potential adverse effects, corticosteroids are available in various dosages and formulations (such as creams, ointments, or lotions) and should be taken as a dermatologist advises.
Note: It’s important to note that the effectiveness of these treatments may vary from person to person, and it’s advisable to consult with a dermatologist to determine the most appropriate treatment for one’s specific condition. This comprises steroidal creams, vitamin D analogs, and calcineurin inhibitors.
Phototherapy for Vitiligo
It is one of the treatments that uses sunlight (UVA or UVB) to restore the colour of depigmented skin. This can be done in a clinic or at home and takes 2-3 sessions weekly. This therapy can be used with topical ointments or creams to boost its effectiveness.
PUVA Treatment for Vitiligo
The UVA light is combined with the drug psoralen in this treatment to restore skin colour. A dermatologist is required to supervise the treatment.
Melanocyte Treatment for Vitiligo
Surgery can be considered if the patient has only a few spots that have not grown in the last six months. Normal skin tissue grafts from unaffected areas of the patient’s body, such as the hips, can be obtained and surgically put over the damaged skin in this procedure. An enzyme treats a split-thickness graft collected from a suitable donor area of the skin. The various cellular components of a skin graft are separated, and the suspension is made from those cellular components. Melanocytes and Keratinocytes are present in the suspension. After prepping the recipient’s bed, the cell suspension is applied thinly and evenly to the dermabraded recipient’s skin area using a spatula. These grafts, placed on the prepared recipient area, will repopulate the depigmented skin.
The treatments listed above are among the most successful for treating vitiligo. Vitiligo is not a fatal disease but can impact a person’s self-esteem and social life. Advanced treatments can aid in treating this condition, but as with any treatment, patience is required.
To get more information or an effective vitiligo treatment, one can consult Dr. Nivedita Dadu, the best skin doctor in Delhi, at Dadu Medical Centre. Other skin issues treated at the renowned dermatology centre include stretch marks, psoriasis, keloid, acne scars, skin pigmentation, anti-aging, and many others. Visit Dadu Medical Centre in Delhi at Rajouri Garden (West Delhi) and Vasant Vihar (South Delhi) to discover more about vitiligo and its treatment costs!