You must have come across people with white patches on their face. If you ever wondered what it is, then you must know it is a skin disorder that causes patches of skin to lose their colour or pigmentation. This results in smooth white spots. Areas of skin that lose their pigmentation are known as macules (if they’re less than 1 cm wide) or patches (if they’re larger than 1 cm). In some instances, the skin develops milky-white patches. The condition usually begins on your face, hands, forearms, and feet. Around 1% of people worldwide suffer from vitiligo.

Sadly, this condition cannot be cured completely, but the colour can be restored in some cases, depending on the extent vitiligo has progressed. 

How is it caused?

The colour of your skin, hair and eye comes from a pigment called melanin. When melanocytes – skin cells that make pigment – located in the epidermis (outer layer of skin) are attacked and destroyed by the body’s own immune system, it causes the skin to turn milky-white in colour. People with darker skin tones have more melanin in their skin as compared to people who have a fair skin tone. Additionally, an event – such as emotional distress, a sunburn, or exposure to a chemical – can also trigger vitiligo or make it worse.

How is vitiligo treated?

Treatment for vitiligo is not necessary, as the condition isn’t harmful to your body. The choice of treatment depends on several factors such as your age, how quickly the disease is progressing, and how it’s affecting your emotional well-being. A certified dermatologist can help you find a treatment option. In most cases, the treatment goals are:

  • Slowing or stopping the disease from progressing.
  • Stopping the immune system from destroying the melanocytes
  • Improving the skin’s appearance by creating a uniform skin tone
  • Encouraging the regrowth of melanocytes
  • Restoring colour to the white patches of skin, which can help the skin colour look more even.
  • Eliminating the remaining colour (depigmentation) in your skin.

The following information is crucial to understand if you choose to treat vitiligo:

  • There is no single treatment for vitiligo. Your dermatologist may initiate the least invasive procedure that is appropriate for you to help restore skin colour or even out skin tone. They may gradually adjust your therapy or add another one in order to achieve the desired outcomes. You can expect several visits to the dermatologist. 
  • Therapy takes time to take effect. Your natural skin tone gradually returns when treatment is effective.
  • Even if your treatment is successful for a while, the results may not last for long and there is a possibility that new patches may appear.
  •  This disease cannot currently be cured, and the restoration of lost skin colour can take a while.

Below are the treatments that dermatologists consider for their patients who have vitiligo. Here are some of the common ones: 

  • Medications to control inflammation
  • Corticosteroid pills or injections
  • Light therapy or phototherapy
  • Depigmentation therapy
  • If light therapy and medications don’t work, surgery may be an option

How can you prevent vitiligo?

Given the fact that there could be several causes of vitiligo, there’s no known way to prevent it. You can reduce your risk of developing vitiligo by following the below self-care strategies to help you care for your skin and improve its appearance. Some prevention techniques include:

  • Protect your skin from exposure to sun rays and artificial sources of UV light.
  • Taking care of your skin by using a moisturiser daily.
  • Avoiding stress or injury to your body.
  • Managing any underlying autoimmune conditions.
  • Avoiding tattoo

Closing thoughts

Vitiligo is a condition that causes the skin to turn lighter than your natural skin tone or white. It doesn’t need treatment because it isn’t dangerous. But it’s common for vitiligo skin changes to affect self-esteem and make people feel insecure or uncomfortable. Reach out to your healthcare provider to stop the progression and reverse its effects. There’s no cure for vitiligo, but if you feel stressed and self-conscious, there are treatments available to help skin tone appear more even.

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