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What is vitiligo?

Vitiligo also known as leucoderma is a skin condition that causes the skin to lose colour and consequently develop white patches. There are no other painful or inflammatory symptoms but the way vitiligo mars the appearance of skin can be distressing. The colour of the skin is lost in blotches and the rate of this colour loss is quite unpredictable. Vitiligo can affect skin on any part of the body and may also affect hair, eyes and inside of mouth. This is not a contagious or malignant skin disorder.

The upper layer of the skin is called epidermis and the lower layer is dermis. Underneath the dermis there is layer of fat and the deeper structures include muscles and tendons. It is the cells called melanocytes at the bottom of the dermis that give the skin its colouring pigment called melanin. Besides colouring the skin, melanin protects it from sun’s rays. The parts of skin that have vitiligo patches lack melanocytes or have very few of these cells. They may be damaged or destroyed in the body. Melanin cannot be made and the colour of skin is therefore lost.

What are the symptoms of this condition?

Vitiligo causes colour loss from skin. It makes the skin light coloured in certain areas or causes white patches that look very different from the normal colour of your skin on rest of the body. This discolouration usually shows first on hands, legs, face, and lips – the areas that are exposed directly to the sun. Other signs of vitiligo include:

  • Premature (before the age of 35 years) whitening or greying of hair on scalp, eyelashes, eyebrows, and/or beard
  • Colour loss in the tissues that line the inside of mouth and nose
  • Colour loss or changes in colour of eyeball’s inner layer (retina)
  • Discoloured skin patches around the armpits, navel, genitals and rectum
Vitiligo may strike at any age but usually occurs before the age of 20. It may affect only one (segmental vitiligo) part of the body or several (generalised vitiligo) of them and progress on adjoining body areas.

What causes vitiligo?

When the melanocytes or cells that give colour to skin and hair die, it results in formation of white vitiligo patches on that part of the body. The reason as to why these cells die or stop functioning is not yet known. Some studies mention that non-segmental vitiligo could be an auto-immune disorder.

Segmental vitiligo has a different cause and apparently it develops when chemicals in the body’s nervous system go askew.

Am I at risk of developing vitiligo?

Millions of people around the world have this problem and most of them get it by the time they are 20 or 21 years of age. It is rare for vitiligo to go on its own without treatment. This skin disorder can affect people of any gender, race or skin colour but your chances of having vitiligo increase if:

  • A close relative in your family has the disorder
  • You have an autoimmune disease, especially
  • Hashimoto’s disease (a thyroid disease) or alopecia areata (that causes hair loss)
  • Your skin was exposed to strong industrial chemicals or sunburn

How to prevent this condition?

As vitiligo develops due to death or destruction of melanocytes in the epidermis, you cannot prevent it. But if you have vitiligo you need to protect yourself from sun’s direct UV rays as there is no protective melanin in the skin. The following precautions are recommended:

  • Use water-resistant UVA and UVB protection sunscreen with SPF of 30 or more before stepping out in the open
  • Wear clothes that can effectively protect you from the sun and use accessories like dark sun glasses and a scarf
  • Seek shade when you are out and sun exposure is at it peak – this happens when sun is directly overhead
  • Do not opt for tanning beds and sprays to colour your skin – if you are too conscious of your vitiligo marks use safe cosmetics that can camouflage the affected parts
  • Do not get yourself inked (with a tattoo) on the affected area

Treatment at Skin Alive

Vitiligo treatments help to restore the lost colour of the skin. Some people use concealing cosmetics or self-tanners that work well for small spots made by vitiligo. Self-tanners contain dihydroxyacetone that hides the white colour and gives it a natural shade like rest of the skin. It is good to use water-proof products for such short term remedies.

Dermatologists recommend corticosteroid based topical solutions in some cases. These can re-pigment the skin particularly if used in the early stage of the disease. But this treatment takes time and even with continual use, you may not see the results for several months. It can also cause some side effects and streaks on the skin. Other prescription topical applications for vitiligo include ointments with tacrolimus or pimecrolimus. These are used on face and neck but they must only be taken on doctor’s advice.

A modern, safe and effective treatment for vitiligo is in form of light based therapy in combination with medications like corticosteroids prescribed by the doctor. At Skin Alive this is in form of:

Phototherapy - It involves the use of UV (ultra-violet) light that slows down the growth of cells affected by the disorder. A specific wavelength of UVA or UVB light is emitted by the Dualight Device and the skin is exposed to the beams for a time determined by your dermatologist. Penetrating the skin layer, the light checks the growth of affected skin cells and helps in re-pigmentation of white and pinkish patches. The number of sessions required for complete treatment depends upon the extent of vitiligo on your skin.

Your Appointment

Skin Alive offers aesthetic and healthy skin services tailored to the needs of its clients. When you visit your dermatologist for vitiligo treatment, discuss your expectations from the therapies and do give a record of medicines and cosmetics that you have used in the past. If sunburns, rashes or other skin problems have affected you earlier these need to be taken in to account for the formulation of an appropriate treatment course. The qualified and experienced dermatologists at our centre will prepare a custom course of treatment to eliminate those white skin patches that embarass you.

Our clinical procedures are combined with highly rated skincare products to bring visible improvements in your skin and give you a well toned complexion.

Call us on +91-8010503503 to book your appointment.

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