What is Vitiligo
What is Vitiligo. A question that people who are faced with this problem for the first time ask themselves.
Vitiligo is a disease that causes the skin to lose color. It occurs as a group of whitish spots in different areas of the body or in a single area.
The extent or rate of color loss due to Vitiligo is not predictable. Also, it can affect the color of the skin in any area of your body.
For example, it can also affect the hair or the inside of the mouth. Normally, hair and skin color is determined by melanin.
Vitiligo occurs when the cells that produce melanin die. Or when they stop working.
Vitiligo affects people with different skin types, but it can be more noticeable in people with darker skin.
This skin disease is absolutely not life-threatening nor contagious. However, it can be stressful and make you feel bad about yourself. The psychological distress is very strong especially in the youngest and in women.
With Vitiligo treatment it is possible to restore the color of the affected skin or improve the situation. We never talk about Vitiligo cure, but about treatment. In fact it is possible that the Vitiligo treated effectively may return in the future.
We have seen what Vitiligo is. Let’s now talk about the symptoms.
The main symptom of Vitiligo is definitely the uneven loss of skin color.
Usually, this discoloration occurs, primarily in areas exposed to the sun. We are talking about hands, feet, arms, face and lips, for example.
The different signs of Vitiligo include:
- Irregular loss of skin color
- Premature bleaching or graying of hair (at the height of the scalp, eyelashes, eyebrows or beard)
- Loss of color in the tissues that line the inside of the mouth and nose (mucous membranes)
- Loss or discolouration of the inner layer of the eyeball (retina)
Vitiligo can start at any age. But it often appears before the age of 20.
Depending on the type of Vitiligo you have, the patches can cover different areas.
- They could cover many parts of your body.
This is the most common type, called Generalized Vitiligo.
Discolored patches often progress similarly on corresponding parts of the body (symmetrically).
- Only one side or part of your body.
Instead this type is called Segmental Vitiligo.
It tends to occur at a young age, progresses for a year or two, then stops.
- One or a few areas of your body.
Finally this third type is called localized (focal) Vitiligo.
How does Vitiligo progress?
It is difficult to predict how your Vitiligo will progress. Sometimes the patches stop forming without any kind of treatment. In most cases, the loss of pigment spreads and eventually involves much of the skin.
Rarely, the skin fully regains its original color.
When is it advisable to see a doctor?
See your doctor if areas of your skin, hair, or eyes lose color. Vitiligo has no definitive cure, but treatment can help stop or slow the discoloration process. Thus returning a little color to the skin.
We have seen what Vitiligo is and what the main symptoms are.
Let’s talk now about the causes of Vitiligo.
What are the causes of Vitiligo?
Many people not only wonder what Vitiligo is. But they also wonder what the causes are.
Vitiligo occurs when pigment-producing cells (called melanocytes) die or stop producing melanin.
Melanin is the pigment that gives skin, hair and eyes color. The patches of skin involved in Vitiligo become lighter or even completely white.
Doctors still don’t know why the cells “jam” or die.
It is assumed that this may be related to:
- A disorder in which the immune system attacks and destroys melanocytes in the skin
- Family history (inheritance)
- A trigger event, such as sunburn, stress, or exposure to industrial chemicals
Complications of Vitiligo
Now that we know perfectly well what Vitiligo is, let’s conclude this article with a list of any complications.
People with Vitiligo may be at an increased risk of:
- Social or psychological distress
- Sunburn and skin cancer
- Eye problems, such as inflammation of the iris (better known as iritis)
This shouldn’t scare you. We always recommend that you rely on your trusted Dermatologist for the diagnosis and treatment of this skin disease.
Our center in Milan employs doctors specialized in Vitiligo, with proven experience. Call us to find out more!