Your Health and Safety is our Priority. Learn more about our COVID-19 Safety Protocols
Vitiligo isn’t contagious and it isn’t medically harmful but it can have serious consequences for emotional and psychological well-being. Brooklyn, NY (PRWEB) March 20, 2015
One to two million Americans suffer with a blotchy loss of skin color that is characteristic of the condition called vitiligo. It can affect anyone but is more noticeable in those with darker skin. “Vitiligo isn’t contagious and it isn’t medically harmful but it can have serious consequences for emotional and psychological well-being,” says dermatology specialist Dr. Alicia Cool with Advanced Dermatology, P.C. “And while we cannot cure it, we can treat it in ways that minimize or camouflage its cosmetic effects.”
Vitiligo typically starts with small areas of light or white skin, often in areas exposed to the sun such as the hands, feet, arms, legs and face, and while it doesn’t always spread further, the white areas may get larger or appear on other parts of the body over time. Other symptoms may include premature whitening or graying of the hair and loss or change of color of the retina of the eye and the mucous membranes that line the mouth and nose.
There are three types of vitiligo, reflecting the pattern in which pigment is lost. In generalized vitiligo, the most common type, the white patches are all over the body, usually in a symmetrical pattern; in the segmental type, de-pigmentation occurs only on one side of the body; and in focal vitiligo, patches appear in only one or a few isolated areas.
The loss of skin pigment that characterizes vitiligo occurs when melanocytes – the cells that produce melanin – die or stop producing melanin. It isn’t known precisely what causes the destruction of these cells but it is thought to be an autoimmune response in which the immune system identifies the melanocytes as dangerous and attacks them. Some cases of vitiligo seem to be triggered or made worse by a single event, such as a severe sunburn or stress. Vitiligo sometimes runs in families, indicating that a genetic predisposition makes people susceptible to de-pigmentation.
Treatments for vitiligo aim to even out skin tone. “The most effective option for each patient depends on the size, location and number of white patches,” says Dr. Cool, “as well as each person’s tolerance of possible side effects, which you should discuss thoroughly with your doctor when deciding on treatment.”
Dr. Cool concludes: “Given the wide range of ways in which vitiligo affects appearance and the number of therapies available, it is important for each individual to learn about the condition and consult with an experienced dermatologist to determine the best course of action.”