Vitiligo (vit-ill-EYE-go) is a skin condition that causes the loss of its color. Smooth white areas (called macules if they are less than 5mm or patches if they are 5mm or larger) appear on the person’s skin. If you have vitiligo in an area with hair, the hair on your body may also turn white.
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It usually starts with a few small white patches that can gradually spread all over the body over several months. Vitiligo typically begins on the hands, forearms, feet, and face, but it can develop anywhere on the body, including mucous membranes (the moist lining of the mouth, nose, genitals, and rectal areas), eyes, and the inside of the ears.
Effects of Vitiligo
At times, larger patches may continue to widen and spread, but they typically remain in the same place for years. The location of smaller macules changes over time, as certain areas of the skin lose and regain their pigments. Vitiligo varies in the amount of affected skin, with some patients experiencing only a few depigmented areas and others having a widespread loss of skin color.
Is vitiligo permanent?
Approximately 10% to 20% of people with vitiligo fully regain their skin color. People with the highest chances of regaining their skin color are those who are young, whose vitiligo peaks in less than six months, and is mainly localized in the facial area. People less likely to regain their color are those who develop it later in life, on their lips and limbs, especially the hands.
What should I know about living with vitiligo?
When reading about skin depigmentation, you can come across this idea in many places, that ‘vitiligo doesn’t endanger life, but it does alter it.’ The fact that vitiligo develops over time is a reason for this. Another factor is that many societies believe that appearance is very important and that being different is something to be avoided. This is often very true for women.
Skin depigmentation is not necessarily inherited. However, around 30% of people with vitiligo have at least one close relative who also has the condition.
It’s important for each individual to take charge of their health. Getting informed about vitiligo and finding a doctor who truly understands the disease and treatment options is essential.
If you develop any new symptoms that concern you, or if you have questions, make sure your voice is heard.
Living with vitiligo can pose various challenges, both physical and emotional.
Areas of depigmented skin are more vulnerable to sunburn and skin cancer. It’s important to use high-factor sunscreen and protective clothing.
Self-Esteem and Emotional Well-being
This skin depigmentation can affect self-esteem and self-confidence. Accepting the appearance of white patches may be challenging, but remember that vitiligo doesn’t define who you are. Seeking emotional and psychological support can be very helpful in managing these feelings.
There are various treatment options that can help halt or slow down skin depigmentation. These include light therapies, topical medications, and in some cases, surgery. It’s essential to discuss these options with a physician experienced in treating vitiligo.
Individuals with vitiligo may be more prone to certain health conditions, such as thyroid diseases. Therefore, it’s important to undergo regular check-ups and maintain a healthy lifestyle.
Support and Community
You’re not alone in this journey. There are communities and support groups for people living with it where you can share your experiences and learn from others.
Remember that each case is unique, and what works for one person may not work for another. The key is to find a treatment that works for you and a doctor you trust. Maintain open communication with your doctor and don’t hesitate to ask questions or express your concerns. Living with vitiligo can be challenging, but with the right information and support, you can manage this condition and lead a fulfilling and satisfying life.