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Is vitiligo more than a cosmetic condition?

Woman with vitiligo indoor dressed pink hoodie sitting on the table

Vitiligo is a chronic condition that is not contagious. It causes the skin to lose its normal color and light skin patches appear. Some people develop a few spots, while others lose more than their skin color. Many people consider Vitiligo a “cosmetic problem”, but is it a cosmetic problem that only affects a person’s appearance?

Actually, it is more than just a ‘cosmetic problem’. It is a medical condition in which our bodies attack the pigment cells, which are responsible for the color of skin, hair, and other areas of the body. It also has an impact on a person’s self-esteem and can lead to significant depression.

Vitiligo affects millions of individuals worldwide. Almost half of them develop it before the age of 21.

Vitiligo Symptoms:

As stated previously, vitiligo causes a loss of natural skin color, hence doctors may call this disease “depigmentation”. It can lose pigment anywhere on our body, including:

  • Skin
  • Hair (scalp, eyebrow, eyelashes, beard)
  • Eyes
  • Mouth (inside)

However, many people do not have any other signs or symptoms, and only a small percentage of patients report that their skin itches or hurts. Patients with vitiligo are also more likely to develop some medical conditions.

Causes

The cause of the development of vitiligo is not yet known, but there is a risk of developing it if a person:

  • Has a relative with Vitiligo
  • Has an autoimmune disease, especially Hashimoto’s disease (thyroid disease).

Diagnosis

If your doctor thinks you have vitiligo, he would:

  • Check your medical history, and may ask questions such as does anyone in your family have Vitiligo?
  • Look carefully at the affected skin
  • Blood test since people with vitiligo often has thyroid disease.

Treatment

There are numerous treatment options available, and your doctor will recommend the best one for you based on your preferences, general health, age, and the area of the vitiligo’s development. The doctor may use more than one strategy to produce better results. Among the available treatments are:

1.     Cosmetics to camouflage lost color

  • It is often recommended for kids as it avoids potential drugs side effects.
  • It must be applied continuously and requires training to obtain a natural-looking result.

2.     Topical medication

  • It is used for small areas.
  • Strong corticosteroid is the most common.

3.     Phototherapy

  • Effective for many patients. About 70% see results with the excimer laser, but unfortunately, the results can disappear after a period.
  • Patients need 2 to 3 treatments each week for several weeks.

4.     PUVA phototherapy

  • It uses ultraviolet light and a medicine called psoralen to restore skin tone.
  • It can treat widespread vitiligo.
  • Takes a long time.

5.     Surgery

  • It may be the last option when light therapy and medication don’t work.
  • The doctor may recommend it for adults whose condition has been stable and unchanged for at least 6 months.
  • Could be effective for 90% to 95% of patients.

Tips for Vitiligo Patients

Skin that has lost its natural color gets sunburned easily, and a bad sunburn can aggravate the symptoms, so it is important to protect the skin from the sun by:

  • Wearing clothes that protect you from the sun’s rays.
  • Try to spend more time as possible in the shade.
  • Using sunscreen every day.
  • Applying sunscreen at least 15 minutes before leaving the house.
  • When spending time outdoors, apply sunscreen every two hours and after sweating or swimming.

Tips for choosing a sunscreen:

  • Protects from ultraviolet A and B.
  • It has a sun protection factor of 30 or more.
  • Water Resistant.

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