Living with Vitiligo

There are people who want to achieve smooth and even skin complexion, but there is a rare disease which causes patches of lighter skin to appear. In some cases, individuals also lose some of the color in their eyes, hair, and the inside of the mouth. Although not life-threatening, vitiligo is still a misunderstood disease.

Coping with a Different Appearance
The problem with vitiligo is not the symptoms, but the acceptance of the appearance of the light patches and unusual skin coloration. The condition is marked by the loss of the natural color in a process called depigmentation, on the skin, hair, eyes, mouth, and genitals. It affects even the hair on the eyebrows, eyelashes, and beard besides the hair on the scalp. The resulting appearance vary among individuals; there are some who only have patches of lighter skin, while others have completely white skin. Vitiligo is the result of the death of the melanocytes that are supposed to produce melanin, but doctors cannot yet explain why this happens. They suspect that the immune system is attacking the melanocytes or there was an external factor that triggered the changes. In most cases, however, vitiligo is hereditary.

Two Types of Vitiligo
A few individuals with the condition report pain and itchiness on the light patches of skin, but vitiligo does not produce any painful or life-threatening symptoms. Researchers have identified two types of vitiligo among people with the condition; these are, segmental vitiligo or the appearance of patches on one segment or part of the body and shows up at an early age; and non-segmental vitiligo, or the appearance of the patches on both segments or sides of the body and the loss of color may continue throughout the person’s life. Some people only have localized vitiligo, while there are rare cases where the loss of color is universal. Unfortunately, there is no way to determine the extent of loss of color on those who are affected. The loss of color might stop at some point, while for others, new patches may appear over the years.

Vitiligo Can be Treated
Before you consult a doctor for a treatment, you must remember that the treatments do not always work for everyone and that there are unwanted side effects that are not worth the trouble. However, you can seek treatment depending on the number of the light patches and how extensive the pigment loss is. The goal of treatment for vitiligo is to restore the color on the white patches and to prevent the progress of depigmentation. The dermatologist might recommend creams, oral medication, ultraviolet A light therapy, and removal of the color in areas not affected by the patches. You might also want to opt for surgery such as skin grafting and tattooing if you want to improve your appearance. You will also need to consult a doctor to avoid complication such as skin cancer, sunburn, iritis or iris inflammation, and hearing loss.

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