What Can I Do About My Vitiligo?
What is Vitiligo?
Vitiligo is a pigmentation disorder of the skin where the melanocytes – the pigment producing cells within the skin that give us our natural skin tone – are destroyed. The exact cause of vitiligo is unknown. There is often a hereditary component to the disease, and often vitiligo is seen to occur in members of the same family. However, other theories on the cause of the condition, including inherent disorders int he melanocyte cells, oxidative stress and nervous system mediated melanocyte destruction have been proposed. One dominant theory is related to the immune system. Instead of attacking harmful or cancerous cells, the immune system turns on itself and destroys the melanocytes producing pigment in the skin, essentially producing an autoimmune reaction.
Does it Cause Pain?
Because this disorder only deals with pigmentation and color within the skin, there is no pain involved with this disease. There are few cases where it has been found to cause itching or slight pain, but it is not common.
Is Vitiligo Contagious?
Vitiligo is not an infection. It is not transferred to others by touching, coughing, through blood transfusions or any other type of contact. It is not an infection and therefore not contagious or infectious to others around affected individuals.
Does Vitiligo Spread?
There is no way to predict where the depigmentation of the skin cells will occur on the body. There are different forms of Vitiligo. Some with Vitiligo only experience the discoloration in specific parts of the body, mainly those in contact with the sun. But most patients experience pigmentation throughout different sections of the body, which is not as organized or contained.
Can I Treat Vitiligo?
There are good treatment options for those patients with Vitiligo, but currently there is no cure for the disorder. Many will start with a strategy to camouflage their condition. Certain cover ups and medical-grade foundations that match patients normal skin tone can be used to conceal the discolored skin.
Most start with some form of topical therapy. Corticosteroids and other immune modulators have shown good effectiveness in treating vitiligo. Phototherapy is another good option for patients that don’t respond to topical therapy. This uses a specific wavelength of UV light to stimulate pigment production in the skin. In unique situations, surgical treatments have been used to repopulate depigmented skin with healthy melanocytes and restore pigment to that area. Punch grafts, blister grafts and melanocytes transfer are the terms used to describe some of these surgical procedures.
In rare instances, typically with extensive disease or in situations where vitiligo is unresponsive to treatment, patient might decide to bleach the remaining pigment out of their skin to restore uniform pigment with a topical medication called Monobenzone.
Regardless, it is advised that all patients use sunscreen on their vitiligo skin. As there is no protective pigment in this area, vitiligo skin can burn easily in the sun, predisposing these areas to severe UV damage.
Is There Research Taking Place To Decipher the Cause of Vitiligo?
There are continuing efforts to better understand what causes Vitiligo. A lot of the research focuses on the genes that make the melanocytes susceptible to destruction, and ways to stop the clinical effects. There is great hope that the cause will be found, especially regarding certain skin types that have a greater chance of possessing Vitiligo.
Are you experiencing pigmentation issues? Please contact us so we can help you with your skin needs.