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Vitiligo Causes, Treatments, and General Skin Care

Vitiligo Causes, Treatments, and General Skin Care

What is vitiligo?

Vitiligo is a disease that causes the loss of skin color in blotches and occurs when pigment-producing cells die or stop functioning. Vitiligo occurs when the skin’s melanocytes (the cells responsible for giving the skin color) are destroyed.

This loss of skin color can affect any part of the body, including the mouth, hair, eyelashes, or eyebrows. It’s often symmetrical, affecting both hands and knees.

What causes vitiligo?

The exact cause of vitiligo is not yet completely understood. It could be an autoimmune disease (in which the body’s immune system attacks and destroys the melanocytes), Genetic factors, Neurogenic factors (a toxic substance to melanocytes may be released at nerve endings in the skin), Self-destruction (A defect in the melanocytes causes them to destroy themselves) and Physical or Emotional stress. As none of the above explanations completely account for the condition, a combination of factors may be responsible for vitiligo.

However, the fact remains that Vitiligo is caused when pigment-producing cells (melanocytes) die or stop producing Melanin which gives skin its color resulting in the development of white patches on your skin or hair.

What are the types of vitiligo?

Mentioned below are some of the Types.

  • “Generalized” – the most common type in which the macules (discolored skin) appear in various places on the body.
  • “Segmenta” – is restricted to 1 side of the body or 1 area (hands or face).
  • “Mucosal” – are membranes like the mouth and/or the genitals.
  • “Focal” – is a rare type, wherein the macules appear in a small area and do not spread within a specific pattern within 1-2 years.
  • “Trichome”- the presence of a white or colorless center.
  • “Universal” – another rare type of Vitiligo that covers more than 80% of the skin.

Who is affected by vitiligo?

Vitiligo affects all races and genders equally at any age (commonly 10-30 years) and is more conspicuous in people with darker skin. 50% of the people who get vitiligo are male and the other half are female.
The risk of getting vitiligo increases if it is genetic, an autoimmune disease, Addison’s disease, Pernicious anemia, Psoriasis, Rheumatoid arthritis, Systemic lupus erythematosus, thyroid disease, and Type 1 Diabetes.

How is vitiligo treated?

Treatment for Vitiligo may improve the appearance of the skin but doesn’t really cure the disease.
The medical treatment aims at creating a uniform skin tone by restoring color (re-pigmentation) or eliminating the remaining color (depigmentation).
Some of the common treatments are Camouflage therapy, Re-pigmentation therapy, Light therapy, and Surgery.
Counseling is strongly recommended as this disease harms mental health, self-esteem, and confidence in most people, arising due to appearance.

What are the symptoms of vitiligo?

The main symptom is loss of natural color or pigment which is called depigmentation and can appear anywhere on your body (Skin, Hair, and Mucous membranes), poor self-esteem, Uveitis (inflammation in the eye), and Inflammation in the ear.

Will the white patches spread?

Vitiligo can spread for some people (over the course of several months and stop abruptly) and not spread for some people as well.

How is vitiligo diagnosed?

Vitiligo is diagnosed based on a review of your symptoms, and medical history, and requires a physical examination like a skin biopsy or blood test.

What other conditions resemble vitiligo?

Chemical leukoderma

Caused by exposure to some industrial chemicals

Tinea versicolor

It is a yeast infection that appears as a dark spot on light skin or as a light spot on darker skin.


It is a genetic condition involving extremely low levels of Melanin in the skin, hair, and/or eyes

Pityriasis alba

Starts with red and scaly areas of skin which eventually fade into scaly lighter patches.

How is vitiligo treated?

There is no definite cure for Vitiligo, however, it is heartening to know that research on various treatments is ongoing thereby providing hope and a future to those suffering from Vitiligo.

Treatment often includes: –

  • Topical Medication (Corticosteroids)- Is used on small areas of the skin (usually face and for darker skin tones) or oral medications, or a combination of both.
  • Topical vitamin D analogs Used to stimulate melanocytes and in combination with other treatments like corticosteroids and have mild side effects.
  • Light treatment / Phototherapy uses ultraviolet B (UVB) light to restore color to the skin and can be used independently or in combination with medications
  • PUVA Light Therapy- Uses a combination of UVA light and psoralen (medication) to restore color to the skin and requires an eye examination before and post the treatment (psoralen can affect the eyes)
  • Surgery- Involves taking the skin from an unaffected area of the body to replace an area of skin affected by vitiligo. People who have keloids or scars easily should avoid surgery.
  • Depigmentation is not commonly used and is a very long process. Here the drug monobenzone is applied to unaffected areas of the skin to remove its pigment to match the skin that is not pigmented.

Please note that not all treatments are safe for children and it is best to obtain medical advice before any treatment.

What can people do to cope with Vitiligo?

Increased awareness of the emotional impact of this disease is bringing in positive changes in the way the medical community and the public view Vitiligo.
Highly recommended is Deep breathing, meditation, or any exercise to minimize stress.
Other ways to cope with Vitiligo are to practice sun safety, avoid tanning beds/ sun lamps, add safe artificial color to the skin, no tattoos, prevent cuts/burns, maintain a healthy lifestyle to boost the immune system, reduce stress, and have a balanced diet.

General Skin Care For Vitiligo

Dermatology shared Skin Care for patients. Vitiligo is a state in which white patches develop on the skin. Anywhere on the body can be affected, and most people with vitiligo have white patches in many areas.

Protect Skin from the sun

Sun’s harmful ultraviolet (UV) rays increase your risk of skin cancer, including melanoma, the deadliest form. Since vitiligo skin can burn more easily, it’s important to protect your skin whenever you’re outside.

Avoid Tanning

You have a light skin tone, tanning may make your vitiligo more noticeable by increasing the contrast between your skin color and the light patches.

Do not get a tattoo

A tattoo ultimately injures the skin. The tattoo gun penetrates the skin with a needle that has ink in it. Because getting a tattoo can cause a new patch of vitiligo to appear on your skin about 10 to 14 days later.

Maintain a healthy lifestyle

To support the immune system, reduce stress, and eat a balanced, nutritional diet. Since stress may cause vitiligo patches, use techniques such as deep breathing, meditation, or exercise to reduce stress.


Therefore, mental health is extremely vital and requires our full attention, awareness, and care.
Counseling and staying connected with support groups can nurture self-acceptance, and self-esteem, boost confidence and create a safe and encouraging environment through mutual support.
This is a powerful way of dealing with the issue, empowering yourself, staying positive, and rebuilding your life and dreams to take them to the next level.


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