Your skin is one of the most identifiable things about you, and if you’re like many people, you do your best to keep it hydrated, smooth, and youthful looking. You might take careful steps to maintain an even, balanced skin tone, as well.
That’s why if your skin develops sudden, unusual changes in pigmentation, as in vitiligo, it can cause social and emotional stress. The exceptional staff at West Dermatology in Arizona, Nevada, or California not only offers a variety of treatments to manage it but also knows how to treat the oft-ignored psychological downside of this skin condition.
Schedule a consultation to learn more about the vitiligo treatments that may be right for you by filling out our online contact form.
What is Vitiligo?
The color of your skin is determined by melanin, a pigment produced by cells called melanocytes. If these are destroyed or even damaged, your can lose its natural color in patches anywhere on your body, resulting in patchy loss of skin color. This is vitiligo, also known as leucoderma.
Afflicting roughly two out of every 100 Americans, vitiligo affects people of any age, gender, or race. The pigmentation changes in your skin can affect a small area of your body or be widespread. Because this condition causes your skin to lighten, and although it develops in people of all skin tones, vitiligo is more noticeable in dark-skinned people due to the starker contrast between the light patches and the deeper-colored skin.
While the exact cause of this physically harmless skin condition is unknown, there are different opinions. Some think it is an autoimmune disorder that leads your immune system into destroying your body’s healthy melanocytes, while others believe it is linked to a virus or even stress. Other theories include links to heredity, sunburn, injury, and exposure to certain chemicals.
The symptoms are readily noticeable and include patches of white skin (usually symmetrical) with dark reddish boundaries that develop anywhere on the body, particularly the following:
- Hands and arms
- Around your eyes
- Around your lips and mouth
Vitiligo is unpredictable – sometimes it’s aggressive and occurs without warning while at other times it develops slowly and suddenly vanishes. It is temporary for some people while being a lifelong condition for others. Furthermore, it can affect your hair, develop inside your mouth, and change the color of your eyes.
Occurring in roughly 90% of all vitiligo sufferers, light skin patches can develop anywhere on the body, often doing so in symmetrical fashion on your arms, neck, hands, elbows, knees, and feet and around your mouth, and eyes.
There are sub-categories of non-segmental vitiligo, as well. The general type is the most common, forming anywhere on your body at any size. A type called acrofacial usually appears on your fingers or toes, while the mucosal variety typically appears in areas with mucous membranes, such as around the lips and nose.
Another type, called focal, is distinguished by a small number of patches scattered throughout your body in discrete places. A final type of non-segmental vitiligo, the rare universal type, covers nearly the whole body.
Affecting the remaining 10% of vitiligo sufferers, this version is very aggressive, although it’s more stable and less symmetrical. It also seems to strike more often in younger people, for it’s the culprit in about one in three children’s cases.
Responses to vitiligo treatment vary from individual to individual, but your goal for treatment should be twofold:
- Reduce the contrast in color between the patches and normal areas
- Decrease the negative emotional or social impact this skin condition can have on you
Here are several known effective methods to manage your condition, which can be determined through the help of an experienced medical dermatologist.
Topical vitiligo medications, such as steroid creams or ointments, applied daily to the affected areas for several months have also proven effective for many patients.
Protection from the Sun
Your light skin patches should be shielded as much as possible from the sun to decrease the risk of skin cancer. SPF 30 sunscreen and clothes that cover up your patches are effective for managing your condition.
Ultraviolet B light is used to target the affected areas of vitiligo for a short period of time two to three times a week for at least six months. This helps your darken your skin.
PUVA Combination Treatment
This is a combination of ultraviolet A rays and the drug Psoralens, either as pills or a cream, results in a darkening of your skin.
If your case is severe, a procedure called depigmentation is an option. This process completely removes color from your skin, resulting in your entire skin being the same very light tone. Because this makes your skin very susceptible to sun damage, this treatment is rare. Another option for severe cases is skin grafting, which involves replacing your light-colored patches with thin layers of your normal toned skin that have been removed from other, more discrete areas of your body. Learn more about vitiligo treatment by visiting WebMD.com.
Think You Might Have Vitiligo? Contact West Dermatology to Find Out
Vitiligo is neither physically painful nor life-threatening. However, it can be socially and emotionally damaging. To learn more about your condition and treatment options, contact the caring staff at West Dermatology by filling out our online contact form. With various locations throughout the southwestern United States, including Hillcrest, Las Vegas, Palm Springs, and more, West Dermatology has been serving families like yours for over 60 years.
Next, read about treatment for Warts.