What is vitiligo?
This condition affects the pigmentation (coloring) of the skin. It is a form of hypopigmentation, which means the loss of natural coloring. People who are afflicted with vitiligo develop white areas of skin. It can occur anywhere on the body, and may be confined to one area or appear in multiple locations.
What causes vitiligo?
Melanocytes are cells in the skin responsible for generating melanin, the pigment that gives your skin its color. Vitiligo causes the immune system to destroy these cells, making the skin lose its pigmentation. Due to the missing or damaged melanin, affected areas are white.
The exact reason vitiligo develops is not clear, but research suggests that heredity has an effect on the immune system. Vitiligo can affect men or women of any ethnicity; however, it is more common in individuals with darker skin. The onset of the condition is usually between the ages of 10 and 40.
Symptoms of vitiligo
The characteristic sign of vitiligo is non-pigmented (white) patches developing on the skin. Although it can appear anywhere on the body, it most commonly manifests first in areas that receive frequent exposure to UV rays.
Rarely, other symptoms may develop, including:
- Prematurely graying.
- White areas of skin developing inside of your mouth.
- Changes in the color of the retina (inner layer of the eye).
Vitiligo treatment options
Vitiligo can be unpredictable; it usually spreads to other areas over time, but not always. At this time, there is no known cure. However, the appearance of affected skin can be greatly improved, and the spread of vitiligo can be slowed or stopped. After a comprehensive evaluation, your dermatologist will recommend the best treatment plan for you, which may include ultraviolet light therapy, topical steroids, and various ointments.
You can help protect your skin from further damage with diligent use of a broad-spectrum sunscreen and avoiding midday sun exposure. Non-irritating camouflage cream can be used to disguise the white patches.
If your skin, hair, or eyes are losing coloring, call Dr. W Dermatology at (281) 771-0494 and schedule an appointment today. We will be happy to see you at our Houston office.