How We Can Help with Vitiligo

Normally, the color of your hair and skin is determined by something known as melanin. Vitiligo occurs when cells that produce melanin die or stop functioning. Vitiligo affects people of all skin types, but it may be more noticeable in people with darker skin. The condition is not life-threatening or contagious, but it can be stressful or have a negative impact on your sense of self-esteem. Treatment for vitiligo may restore color to the affected skin, but it should be noted that it doesn’t prevent continued loss of skin color or a recurrence. If you would like to learn more about how we can help you manage vitiligo, take a look at our locations page and reach out to the Certified Dermatology office that’s most convenient for you.

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The Symptoms of Vitiligo

Vitiligo can start at any, though it most commonly appears before age 30. 

Some of the most common signs of vitiligo include:

  • Patchy loss of skin color, which usually first appears on the hands, face, and areas around body openings and the genitals
  • Premature whitening or graying of the hair on your scalp, eyelashes, eyebrows, or beard
  • Loss of color in the tissues that line the inside of your mouth and nose (mucous membranes)

Where Can Vitiligo Impact Me?

It’s difficult to predict how your disease will progress. Sometimes the patches stop forming without treatment. In most cases, pigment loss spreads and eventually involves most of your skin. Occasionally, the skin gets its color back.

Depending on the type of vitiligo you have, it may affect the following areas.

  • Nearly all skin surfaces. With this type, called universal vitiligo, the discoloration affects nearly all skin surfaces.
  • Many parts of your body. With this most common type, called generalized vitiligo, the discolored patches often progress similarly on corresponding body parts (symmetrically).
  • Only one side or part of your body. This type, called segmental vitiligo, tends to occur at a younger age, progress for a year or two, then stop.
  • One, or only a few areas, of your body. This type is called localized (focal) vitiligo.
  • The face and hands. With this type, called acrofacial vitiligo, the affected skin is on the face and hands, and around body openings, such as the eyes, nose, and ears.
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What Causes Vitiligo?

Vitiligo occurs when pigment-producing cells (melanocytes) die or stop producing melanin, which is the pigment that lends color to your skin, hair, and eyes. The involved patches of skin will eventually become lighter or white, and it’s unclear exactly what causes these pigment cells to fail or die. It may be related to:

  • A disorder of the immune system (autoimmune condition)
  • Family history (heredity)
  • A trigger event, such as stress, severe sunburn 
  • Skin trauma, such as contact with a chemical

Are There Potential Complications?

People with vitiligo may be at increased risk of:

  • Social or psychological distress
  • Sunburn
  • Eye problems
  • Hearing loss
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