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Vitiligo Causes & Symptoms

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Vitiligo is a skin condition that affects people from diverse backgrounds and with many different skin types. While hyperpigmentation involves an excess of melanin in the skin, depigmentation involves a loss of pigment. Let’s learn more about this condition, its causes symptoms and treatments.

Vitiligo Causes

Vitiligo is caused when the skin cells that normally form melanin stop producing it. Although the exact causes of why these cells fail to produce melanin is not known, it can be influenced by heredity sunburns, exposure to chemicals, and immune system disorders.

Types of Vitiligo

Physicians have identified a few different types and subtypes of vitiligo. Unilateral/segmental vitiligo often begins in childhood and appears on a single segment of the body, often the face, arm, leg, or hair. But the most common type is bilateral/non-segmental vitiligo, which appears on both sides of the body and often appears on the hands, wrists, mouth, and feet. The condition can be further categorized as localized, generalized, or universal.

Common Sites of Vitiligo

Although it is possible to develop depigmentation anywhere on the body, some areas are more common for vitiligo. These bodily areas include:

  • Arms
  • Neck
  • Hands
  • Chest
  • Scalp
  • Hair
  • Eyebrows
  • Genitals

Vitiligo is a skin condition that can progress and spread over time. Sometimes, large areas of skin become covered with the lighter pigment and even become the dominant skin color. It is difficult to predict how vitiligo will spread across the body in the short-term and long-term.

Vitiligo Symptoms

Symptoms of vitiligo include skin discoloration, premature whiting of the hair, loss of color inside the mouth and dyes, and discolored patches of skin. Most often, vitiligo affects people during childhood and the teenage years.

Most people who are affected by vitiligo are non-symptomatic and feel completely healthy. In more rare cases, vitiligo sufferers report itching or painful sensations on the affected areas.

Vitiligo Treatments

Unfortunately, there is no known cure for vitiligo. However, some treatments may help even out the discoloration process of your skin. A doctor can conduct a skin biopsy and draw blood for lab testing to confirm if you have vitiligo.

Using with a fade cream on unaffected skin areas may help reduce the look of vitiligo. Creams designed for both daytime and nighttime use can even skin tone and make the condition less noticeable in some people. Other topical creams may help return pigment to the skin if treatment usage begins in the early stages.

For severe cases of vitiligo, more invasive and surgical treatments can be recommended, including the following:

  • Light therapy
  • Laser therapy
  • Skin grafting
  • Micropigmentation/tattooing

Vitiligo affects people of all races and both sexes, however, it’s more noticeable in people who have dark skin. Scientists continue to research the causes and potential cures for vitiligo, with gene research in particular. If you begin to experience unexplained light patches of skin on any part of your body consult a trusted medical professional to confirm a diagnosis and discuss possible treatment options.