Vitiligo is a condition of the skin in which the skin loses its melanocytes, or pigment cells, in certain areas. This results, typically, in discolored patches around the skin. These affected areas can appear anywhere on the body, as well as on the hair and mucous membranes. While vitiligo can affect anyone, it is often more visible on people with darker skin. It is not a contagious condition and it is not a life-threatening condition.
Vitiligo starts at any age, but usually presents before someone is 30. The signs of vitiligo include:
Vitiligo happens when the melanocytes in the skin, hair or mucous membrane start to die off or stop working. The absence of these pigment-producing cells results in a faded color in that area of the skin. What triggers this is not exactly known. Vitiligo may be related to an autoimmune condition, hereditary traits or a triggering event such as skin trauma or stress. While non-life threatening, vitiligo can come with some complications, including social stress, eye issues, hearing loss and a higher tendency to sunburn in the affected areas.
There are a number of methods for treating vitiligo. Some medications such as corticosteroid cream and calcineurin inhibitors have been shown to restore some pigmentation to the skin. Light therapy is one treatment that has been shown to stop or slow active vitiligo’s progression. Patients receiving light therapy are also often prescribed corticosteroids or calcineurin inhibitors. Light therapy typically happens several times a week and a course of treatment can run for months before there are notable changes.
All cases of vitiligo are not the same, therefore we recommend seeing a specialist to help determine which treatment option is the best for you.