Vitiligo is a disease that causes the loss of skin color in blotches. The extent and rate of color loss from vitiligo is unpredictable. It can affect the skin on any part of your body. It may also affect hair and the inside of the mouth. Vitiligo can affect anyone. It doesn’t know any age, any gender or any race. So, it shouldn’t come as a surprise that celebrities could also be affected by the same skin disorder. Celebrities like Winnie Harlow and the late Michael Jackson both have had to deal with vitiligo while living in the public eye.
Normally, the color of hair and skin is determined by melanin. Vitiligo occurs when the cells that produce melanin die or stop functioning. Vitiligo affects people of all skin types, but it may be more noticeable in people with darker skin. The condition is not life-threatening or contagious. It can be stressful or make you feel bad about yourself.
Treatment for vitiligo may restore color to the affected skin. But it does not prevent continued loss of skin color or a recurrence.
Signs and Symptoms
The main sign of vitiligo is patchy loss of skin color. Usually, the discoloration first shows on sun-exposed areas, such as the hands, feet, arms, face and lips.
Vitiligo signs include:
- Patchy loss of skin color
- Premature whitening or graying of the hair on your scalp, eyelashes, eyebrows or beard
- Loss of color in the tissues that line the inside of your mouth and nose (mucous membranes)
- Loss of or change in color of the inner layer of the eyeball (retina)
Vitiligo can start at any age, but often appears before age 20.
It's difficult to predict how your disease will progress. Sometimes the patches stop forming without treatment. In most cases, pigment loss spreads and eventually involves most of your skin. Rarely, the skin gets its color back.
See your doctor if areas of your skin, hair or eyes lose coloring. Vitiligo has no cure. But treatment may help to stop or slow the discoloring process and return some color to your skin.
Vitiligo occurs when pigment-producing cells (melanocytes) die or stop producing melanin. The involved patches of skin become lighter or white. Doctors don't know why the cells fail or die. It may be related to:
- A disorder in which your immune system attacks and destroys the melanocytes in the skin
- Family history (heredity)
- A trigger event, such as sunburn, stress or exposure to industrial chemicals
Diagnosis and Treatment
Medical history and exam
If your doctor suspects you have vitiligo, he or she will ask about your medical history, examine you and try to rule out other medical problems, such as dermatitis or psoriasis. He or she may use a special lamp to shine ultraviolet light onto the skin to determine whether you have vitiligo.
In addition to gathering your personal and family medical history and examining your skin, your doctor may:
- Take a small sample (biopsy) of the affected skin
- Draw blood for lab tests to look for underlying autoimmune conditions, such as anemia or diabetes
Many treatments are available to help restore skin color or even out skin tone. Results vary and are unpredictable. Some treatments have serious side effects. So your doctor may suggest that you first try improving the appearance of your skin by applying self-tanning products or makeup.
If you and your doctor decide to treat your condition with a drug, surgery or therapy, the process may take many months to judge its effectiveness. And you may have to try more than one approach or a combination of approaches before you find the treatment that works best for you.
Even if treatment is successful for a while, the results may not last or new patches may appear.
Medications: No drug can stop the process of vitiligo — the loss of pigment cells (melanocytes). But some drugs, used alone or with light therapy, can help restore some skin tone.
- Compounded options we can help you with:
- Pseudocatalase Topical Cream
- Phenylalanine (L) 10% Topical Cream
Tips for managing and preventing
- Protect your skin from the sun and artificial sources of UV light
- Conceal affected skin
- Don't get a tattoo