medical vitiligo


Vitiligo is an autoimmune disorder that causes the skin to lose color/pigment and patches of white skin appear. The cells of the immune system incorrectly attack melanocytes (the cells that make pigment) and they die. Vitiligo usually affects the skin, but it can develop anywhere we have pigment (hair, inside the mouth, and the eye can be affected). This is not a contagious disorder, and it is not life-threatening, but it can be life-altering causing low self-esteem and depression. Vitiligo lesions are most common on the hands, fingers, wrists, feet, elbows, knees, around the eyes or mouth, and on the genitals.

There is no way to predict how much color a person will lose, or if it will get worse or stay the same. Millions of people worldwide have vitiligo, and most develop this before age 21. The risk for developing vitiligo increases if you have a close relative with a history of it, or have another autoimmune disorder such as Hashimoto’s thyroiditis or alopecia areata.

◦ Your dermatologist will obtain a detailed medical history, family history and will then evaluate the skin. You also may need a blood test to check the health of your thyroid gland because people with vitiligo often have an autoimmune thyroid disease as well.
◦ Cosmetic make-up, self-tanner and skin dye.
◦ Topical medical creams (steroid creams and non-steroid creams).
◦ UV light treatments (phototherapy, excimer laser treatments).
◦ Surgery where pieces of normal skin are inserted into the areas without pigment; possible side effects include treatment failure, cobblestone-like skin and infection.
◦ Some vitamins, minerals, amino acids and enzymes have been reported to restore skin color in people who have vitiligo, but there is no research supporting these treatments (eg Ginkgo biloba).
◦ It is not possible to predict how a patient will respond to treatment. It is important to keep in mind that no one treatment works for everyone. Results can vary from one part of the body to another. Combining two or more treatments often gives the best results.