Vitiligo Skin Disease

Vitiligo is a skin disease that affects about 1 in every 100 sufferers all over the world. It is a relatively common skin disease that can be identified by the presence of white patches on theskin surface of its sufferers. Studies have established that Vitiligo is not an infectious or contagious disease. Despite this information Vitiligo sufferers worldwide continue to experience personal trauma because of the added consciousness of their skin difference and also the ignorance of those around them some of whom may treat them callously. Vitiligo skin disease causes its sufferers to have various psychosomatic illnesses like depression, stress and paranoia.

The cause of the Vitiligo skin disease is not well known but studies have pointed in the direction of autoimmune diseases. This is because this skin disorder begins to make its presence felt when the body attacks its own cells that are responsible for producing the normal skin color tone. When the skin stops or produces very low amounts of melanin, which is responsible for giving the skin its original skin color, then skin diseases like Vitiligo are seen. The chances of Vitiligo skin disease appearing on the skin are higher if the sufferer has other autoimmune disease like;

  • Diabetes mellitus – where the body’s blood sugar levels fluctuate leading to a compromised immunity system.
  • Hypothyroidism – also known as an over active thyroid. This occurs when the body attacks its own thyroid gland thus rendering it malperforming.
  • Addison’s disease – where the adrenal glands produce too little adrenaline for the body’s metabolism to functon adequately.
  • Pernicious anemia – where the body is unable to absorb vitamin B12 from the intestinal tract to manufacturer adequate amounts of red blood cells.

Vitiligo affects everybody of all skin colors. It is more visible in darker skin colored people because of the stark contrast of the white patches over their dark skin. Its prevalence is equal in both males and females. The Vitiligo skin disease is also known to affect land based animals. This skin disease is said to have an early onset although there are rare cases of infants below 1 year who have it. The main age groups of sufferers include persons of between age 10 and 40 years.

When a person has Vitiligo he or she may notice the white patches initially appear small in size. These patches can either remain the same size or grow larger. The edges along Vitiligo skin patches are jagged but in most cases the texture of the Vitiligo skin is similar to the original skin. A few sufferers report incidences of additional itching, rashes, redness or slight discomfort on the Vitiligo skin patches.

Vitiligo skin disease is not known to be genetic in temperament although cases have been recorded where families have Vitiligo skin disease in their genes. When Vitiligo first appears it is difficult to predict its speed of progression over time and onto other parts of the body. This has therefore made Vitiligo skin disease to be categorized in 2 broad types as follows;

  • Non-segmental Vitiligo
    This happens when the Vitiligo appears in a symmetrical manner on both sides of the body. Over time new patches of Vitiligo appear and these can be spread all over the body or localized in one area. This type of Vitiligo can come about at any age. Classes of this type of Vitiligo are;
    • Generalized Vitiligo – most sufferers have this form of Vitiligo where the white patches are distributed widely and randomly.
    • Universal Vitiligo – where the sufferer has over 80% Vitiligo skin covering the body.
  • Segmental Vitiligo
    This is the type of Vitiligo that affects the body in an asymmetrical linear manner. It tends to affect areas of the skin that are associated with the dorsal roots from the spine. It spreads more rapidly. It is much more stable and treatable. It is not associated with autoimmune diseases. It is normally prevalent among teenagers.
    • Focal Vitiligo- the least severe form of Vitiligo that affects only a few scattered areas. This is the most common with children.
    • Acrofacial Vitiligo – where the body’s perimeter is affected by Vitiligo e.g. finger tips
    • Mucosal Vitiligo – where only the mucous membranes are attacked by Vitiligo in the nose, mouth and eyes.

Vitiligo skin disease is diagnosed in a relatively straight forward manner. Once a person notices the skin turning white in patches, he or she can visit the doctor to perform several tests to ascertain that it is indeed Vitiligo skin disease. The doctor can check the skin with the use of a Wood light. In this light Vitiligo skin appears milk white in color. The doctor can also do a skin biopsy to rule out other causes of skin pigment loss. In addition the doctor can check the levels of thyroxine in the body and also conduct a red blood cell count.
Vitiligo once diagnosed has no cure. It can however be treated and controlled in different ways that involve;

  • Light therapy – where the doctor introduces special UVB rays to affected areas to try to activate
  • the skin cells to begin producing melanin.
  • Oral medication like Trisoralen.
  • Topical creams"applied directly to the affected areas such as corticosteroid creams, immune suppressants or repigmentation agents.
  • Perform skin grafting procedures.
  • Advice the sufferer to use special cosmetic creams for the affected areas.
  • Perform total skin bleaching if the Vitiligo is universally spread.

Since Vitiligo skin disease spreads with exposure to the sun, sufferers are asked to use only creams that have SPF protection from the sun. Vitiligo sufferers can lead normal lives if they adjust their mental attitude and accept their condition as controllable and treatable.

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