Vitiligo is a skin condition that affects about 0.5-2 % of the population worldwide. It causes loss of pigment that can be localized to one area or more widespread. Vitilgo is a benign process but can impact one's quality of life, particularly if widespread.
What Does Vitiligo Look Like?
Vitiligo results in white patches on the skin that can be small areas or large areas. Commonly involved sites include the hands, feet, face and genitals, but any part of the skin can be affected. Areas of the skin that suffer repeated trauma are more often affected.
What Causes Vitiligo?
Vitiligo is thought to be a result of an autoimmune process. The skin's immune system attacks the melanocytes, the cells that produce pigment, resulting in fewer pigment-producing cells and subsequently in white patches. Genetics probably play an important role and people with vitiligo may have a family history of vitiligo or other autoimmune diseases such as autoimmune thyroid disease.
Are There Other Conditions Associated with Vitiligo?
Most patients with vitiigo are otherwise healthy. A number of other autoimmune conditions are more common in individuals with this condition, especially in those who have a family history of vitiligo or other forms of autoimmunity. The most commonly associated condition is thyroid disease.
How is Vitiligo Treated?
Limited vitiligo is usually treated with topical medications such as topical corticosteroids or topical immunomodulators. Moderate or extensive vitiligo is sometimes treated with phototherapy (the medical use of ultraviolet light). The face an neck tend to respond relatively well to treatment, while areas like the hands and feet tend to be more difficult to treat. Vitligo treaments work very slowly and usually require a long-term commitment. At present there is no cure for Vitiligo. The goal of treatment is to improve it's appearance.
Are There any other Changes I can Make that Would be Helpful?
Yes. Vitiligo undergoes a process known as koebnerization. That means that any trauma to the skin can cause new areas of vitiligo. Trauma can be physical trauma or could even be a sunburn. Additionally, areas of vitiligo have no pigment to protect them from sun exposure and can burn readily. For these reasons, it is important to always wear a sunscreen with an SPF of 30 or higher when exposed to the sun.