Vitiligo is a medical condition that causes the skin to lose color. Some people develop a few spots that may lighten or turn completely white. Others can have widespread loss of skin color. Vitiligo can develop on any part of the body but commonly begins on hands, forearms, feet, or face. There is no way to predict how much color a person will lose.
Vitiligo affects both genders and all races, but it is more noticeable in people with darker skin. The relatives of a person with vitiligo have a higher risk of developing vitiligo.
Persons with vitiligo also have elevated risk of other autoimmune disorders such as thyroid disease.
Vitiligo develops when the pigment-producing cells of the skin, called melanocytes, are destroyed by the body's immune system.
Vitiligo is apparently caused by inheritance of multiple causal genes simultaneously, possibly in different combinations in different people, plus exposure to environmental risk factors or triggers that are not yet known.
Types of vitiligo
Generalized vitiligo often first appears on the hands, fingertips, wrists, around the eyes or mouth, or on the feet. It often begins with a rapid loss of skin color. It commonly spreads to the face, lips, hands, arms, legs, or genitals.
Segmental vitiligo tends to begin at an early age, progress for a year or two, and then stop. It is called segmental because color loss tends to be confined to one segment of the body. A segment of hair on the head, an eyelash, or an eyebrow may turn white, almost always on just one side of the body.
Trichrome vitiligo has three shades of color - brown, tan, and cream.
Skin color occasionally returns without treatment. Other people lose all of their pigment, causing the skin to become a white color. Most cases of vitiligo fall between these two extremes and can be successfully treated. Treatment options include:
Light therapy (phototherapy) with narrow band ultraviolet B (NB-UVB)
This uses light to repigment the skin. NB-UVB requires two to three treatment sessions per week for several months. The whole body can be treated if the vitiligo is extensive, or small areas can be treated with a targeted phototherapy device or an excimer laser. The hands and feet seem least responsive.
Creams and ointments
Medications that are applied to the skin such as topical corticosteroids and Protopic or Elidel can be used to reduce the overactivity of the immune system.
For patients with extensive vitiligo, removing the remaining pigment from the skin can be an effective way to achieve one skin color. This treatment is considered permanent.
Disguising vitiligo with makeup, a self-tanner, or dye can be a safe, easy way to make vitiligo less noticeable. Waterproof cosmetics that match most skin colors are available. Self-tanners and dyes last longer than makeup. When selecting a self-tanner, pick one that contains a chemical called dihydroxyacetone.
Adapted from the American Academy of Dermatology
The information above is a partial and general information and cannot replace the needed specific medical examination and consultation