Vitiligo is a skin disease and it forms white spots due to loss of pigment. while any area of body may be affected, it usually affects in front of the body and the back. The mostly affected areas are face, lip, hands, feet and genitals.
Who is affected by Vitiligo?
It is developed in 1 or 2 person of every 100 person. Half of the people who are affected by this disease are affected before the age of 20. Approximately %5 of them have a family history. Sometimes it results from immune system producing antibodies for its own pigments. Generally Vitiligo patients are healthy but sometimes vitiligo develops after an autoimmune disease such as thyroid diseases.
How is Skin color formed?
Pigments which form skin, hair and eye color are melanins. melanins are produced by melanocytes. If these cells die or if they cannot produce melanin skin color becomes lighter or it becomes entirely white.
How does Vitiligo Develop?
A typical Vitiligo shows up as milky white areas on body. Pigment loss of different areas may also differ. Therefore every area of vitiligo may have different color. Vitiligo begins with rapid pigment loss and it continues until it stops with an unknown reason. After that, there may be no change at all and it may stay the same forever. It is a rare condition to see pigments come back spontaneously. Some patients may have no difference on skin color because they lost all the pigments and they may think that they no longer have vitiligo. Although all the body is on the same color these patients still have Vitiligo. Severity degree of this disease changes for every person. People who have light colored skin notice this disease from color difference of vitiligo affected areas while people who have tanned skin notice this disease in the summer. Generally dark colored skinned people may notice this disease in any time of the year. Severe vitiligo cases may show up pigment loss in every place of the body. However there is no way of knowing how much pigments will be lost.
First of all a vitiligo patient should stay away from the sun. Other treatment methods are efforts to form pigments again.
- These creams may bring back pigments in some little areas of vitiligo. It may be used concurrently with other treatment methods. These creams may make the skin thin or form cracks. It should be administered under a dermatologist's control.
- Skin becomes vulnerable to light in this treatment method in which psoralen drug is used. Subsequently, a special ultraviolet light UVA will be applied on patient's skin. If the disease is visible in a few small areas psoralen may be administrated just before UVA treatment. Psoralen is administrated orally in a form of pill. Success rate of PUVA treatment is in between %50 and %70 for face, back, upper arm and upper leg. Its success rate is low for hands and feet. It should be applied once in two weeks for a year. PUVA may increase risk of skin cancer and sunburn visage due to its side effects. After taking the psoralen drug, UVA protective glasses should be used until the evening of that day, because drug makes the eyes vulnerable to light. PUVA treatment cannot be applied on kids below 12, breastfeeding mothers and pregnant women. Research on more effective treatment methods for vitiligo is ongoing.