What is Vitiligo?
Vitiligo is a disease of the skin that is characterized by the progressive appearance of areas on the skin without pigment. This disease occurs as a result of the destruction of melanocytes, which are the cells that produce the color or pigment of the skin. It’s not contagious, but it has a great psychosocial impact since it usually affects visible areas and is very difficult to disguise.
Who does it affect?
The prevalence of this condition is 3% of the population. Many people develop the disease between the ages of 20 and 30, but it can occur at any age..It affects both men and women of all races equally; however, it is more noticeable in people with dark skin.
Individuals with certain autoimmune diseases (such as hyperthyroidism and hypothyroidism) are more likely to suffer from vitiligo than those who don’t suffer them.
It’s not known exactly what the origin of this condition is. Some scientists argue that it’s an autoimmune disease in which the immune system itself destroys the melanocytes of the skin. We also believe that one or more genes are responsible for increasing the probability that a person suffers the disease, therefore there is a genetic predisposition.
Others think that a particular event, such as a sunburn or emotional stress, can cause the onset of vitiligo. However, the exact origin has not yet been established.
Vitiligo can also be hereditary. Children whose parents suffer from this disease are more likely to develop it. However, it doesn’t mean that whenever a parent suffers it, the child develops it.
The appearance of white spots with sharp edges on the skin is the main feature of this disease. They result from the absence of pigment in the skin. They have a variable size and their evolution and location is unpredictable. They are more common in areas exposed to the sun like the hands, feet, arms, face and lips and are usually initiated around the body orifices. They spread to other areas of the body in a quick or slow way, depending on the person. In general, the disease tends to progress, but in a low percentage of people, especially in children, an instant repigmentation may occur.
People with vitiligo often have premature gray hairs.
- Symmetrical Vitiligo: is the most common. It’s characterized by having depigmented areas on both sides of the body in similar areas.
- Segmental vitiligo: is the least frequent. It only appears on one side of the body.
Currently there is no definitive cure for this disease, but if very satisfactory results are obtained.
Not all treatments are suitable for all people and many of them have unwanted side effects. It’s for this reason that it is important to visit the dermatologist to make the diagnosis and prescribe the most appropriate treatment in each case to improve the appearance of the skin by recovering the color of the white spots.
- Topical and/or oral medications
- Ultraviolet radiation A and/or B (PUVAteràpia)
- Patient’s skin graft