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What is Vitiligo & How is it Treated?

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About 1% of the global population has vitiligo—a condition causing white patches on the skin. While it is unclear what causes this skin condition, a dermatologist can help determine potential treatment options for vitiligo.

What is Vitiligo?

Vitiligo is a condition where the skin loses its color due to the loss of pigmentation, causing white and light-colored patches to appear on the skin. Vitiligo can affect any part of the body, and commonly occurs on the chin, forehead and nose. The skin condition can occur at any age, and typically begins between the ages of 10 and 30.

Common signs of vitiligo can include patchy loss of skin color and whitening or graying of the hair, eyelashes, eyebrows or beard.

There are a few different types of vitiligo:

  • Universal vitiligo appears on nearly all of the skin’s surface, covering about 80% of the body
  • Generalized vitiligo, the most common type, causes discoloration on corresponding body parts
  • Segmental vitiligo, typically occurring at a younger age, affects only one side or part of the body
  • Localized vitiligo appears on just one or only a few areas of the body
  • Acrofacial vitiligo affects skin on the hands and face, particularly around the eyes, nose and ears

While it is not painful, life-threatening or contagious, vitiligo can cause patients to feel self conscious. We recommend seeing a doctor to discuss potential treatment options.

What Causes Vitiligo?

Vitiligo occurs when the cells that produce melanin, our natural skin pigment, stop functioning. It is unknown what causes these cells to stop functioning, but it may be brought on by:

  • Autoimmune conditions: Immune system disorders can raise your odds of vitiligo
  • Genetics: You’re more likely to develop vitiligo if another family member has it
  • Trigger events: High-stress situations or skin trauma can set off vitiligo

What are the Treatment Options for Vitiligo?

Currently, there is no cure for vitiligo, but a dermatologist can provide treatment options such as light therapy, surgery, or medications. These options may restore color to the affected areas, but won’t prevent a recurrence or continued loss of melanin.

Occasionally, vitiligo stops forming without treatment and patients’ skin may even get its color back. Due to the lack of pigmentation, it’s particularly important for patients with vitiligo to protect their skin against the sun. Apply sunscreen daily, wear protective clothing and stay in the shade when the sun is at its strongest.

Visit Windsor Dermatology for a Consultation

If you think you may have vitiligo, call us today to schedule a consultation. Our team of expert dermatologists is here to help you manage your skin condition, so you can enjoy life to the fullest.

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