Vitiligo is a chronic skin condition marked by white patches appearing on different parts of the body. These patches occur when melanocytes, the skin’s pigment cells, are destroyed. It’s not clear exactly what causes vitiligo, but it can affect people of all ages, races, and sexes.
The main symptom is white patches of skin, which are more noticeable in darker skinned individuals because the lack of pigmentation creates a starker contrast between the affected skin and the surrounding areas. These patches occur most frequently in areas of the skin exposed to the sun, like the face, hands, arms, and feet. Additional symptoms include premature gray hair, a loss of color of tissue inside the mouth, and changes in the mucous membranes of the eyes and nose.
Diagnoses and Treatment
At your appointment, your doctor will ask questions about your personal and family medical history before performing a thorough physical examination to check your skin. Blood tests, eye exams, and skin samples may be used to make a diagnosis. Your doctor will work with you to create a customized treatment plan based on the condition of your skin and treatment preferences.
They may prescribe oral medication or topical cream for the skin, or they may recommend a non-surgical procedure like ultraviolet light treatment. Some patients may be good candidates for surgical solutions such as skin grafts. In some cases, vitiligo spreads across the body, while others only have small patches of discolored skin. Every case is different, so it’s important to remember that treatment will be different for every patient.
Coping with Vitiligo
The condition may cause people to feel alienated, depressed, or upset about their appearance. Many patients benefit from seeing a counselor or therapist, or joining a local or online support group to connect with others for emotional support. Many people have been able to use cosmetics, and even tattoos to successfully conceal their discolored skin.
A supportive, knowledgeable doctor also makes a big difference in the treatment outcome, so speak with a trusted doctor to learn about your options.