A number of vitiligo patients ask us a lot of questions about vitiligo at our Simulated Skin clinic. Here is a list of the most frequently asked questions we receive about vitiligo:
What Is Vitiligo?
According to the U.S. National Library of Medicine vitiligo is, “a skin condition in which there is a loss of brown color (pigment) from areas of skin, resulting in irregular white patches that feel like normal skin.”
The easiest way to identify vitiligo is the characteristic irregular white patches of skin. Vitiligo is easier to spot in individuals with darker skin tones because it destroys the brown pigmentation of the skin, resulting in these white patches.
What Causes Vitiligo
Vitiligo occurs when immune cells destroy the cells responsible for producing brown pigment (melanocytes). The cause of this destruction is unknown, however, it is commonly believed to be due to an autoimmune disorder.
Vitiligo can suddenly appear at any age with those of 10-30 years old being somewhat more at risk. There is evidence vitiligo may be somewhat prevalent in certain families, suggesting there may be a genetic cause. Vitiligo affects around 1 out of 100 people in the United States, making it more common than most people think. Vitiligo seems to affect people of all ethnic backgrounds equally.
Vitiligo commonly develops in patients with other autoimmune and diseases such as:
How Can You Treat Vitiligo?
Currently, the cause of vitiligo is not understood. This makes treating the condition almost impossible. There have been limited scientific studies conducted aimed at restoring pigmentation of the skin. However, the results have been inconsistent.
The medical literature suggests a cosmetic camouflage product, such as Simulated Skin, may help restore confidence in vitiligo patients since it can give the appearance of re-pigmentation of the skin. However, cosmetic camouflage and vitiligo makeup products do not offer an actual cure for vitiligo; they only offer a way to help patients hide the white spots caused by vitiligo. Being able to “hide” vitiligo can have many social and psychological benefits for patients.
There is also limited medical evidence which suggests certain ultraviolet light treatments and corticosteroids are effective in treating vitiligo. However, these methods fail to produce consistent results in all vitiligo patients.
Syptoms of Vitiligo & Is Vitiligo Painful?
We are frequently asked what the symptoms of vitiligo are. You should consult a doctor or other healthcare professional if you believe you’ve developed vitiligo. It’s important to conduct blood tests to determine what the true cause of the loss of pigmentation is.
The first characteristic sign of vitiligo is otherwise normal feeling skin suddenly appearing without any pigmentation. Vitiligo is painless. Vitiligo is often more noticeable in darker skinned individuals due to the contrast of their darker skin against the white spots.
Vitiligo affects all sides of the body equally. It often affects the face, hands, feet, genitals, and elbows the most.
Vitiligo is a truly baffling condition. Some patients experience “waxing and waning” of symptoms. That is to say, some vitiligo patients notice affected areas may regain pigmentation while new areas of skin simultaneously lose pigmentation. The prognosis varies from person to person, however, some individuals may notice their symptoms getting worse over time while others notice their symptoms improving.
Because the cause of vitiligo is not fully understood, it’s hard to understand why some people’s condition improves while others don’t. Many medical professionals and people with the disease believe lifestyle factors such as stress, diet and nutrition play a large role in the severity of the disease.
The rate at which the disease progresses is different in each person.
Additional Vitiligo Facts
The extent and rate of color loss from vitiligo is unpredictable. It can affect the skin on any part of your body. It may also affect hair, the inside of the mouth and even the eyes.
A number of medical professionals believe toxins and chemicals may be responsible for triggering the disease. As these toxins build up in the body, the disease begins to develop.
According to the American Academy of Dermatology, millions of people worldwide have vitiligo. Nearly half get it before they reach 21 years of age. Most will have vitiligo for the rest of their lives. It is very rare for vitiligo to disappear.
Vitiligo occurs about equally in people of all skin colors and races. About half the people who get vitiligo are male and half are female.
Vitiligo Support Groups
A number of support groups exist to help vitiligo patients: