Vitiligo is a systemic disease affecting the largest organ in the body, the skin. It is a lifelong condition those diagnosed with will likely never be free of. The unpredictability of the loss of skin color and overlying hair color can be frustrating. Contrary to popular belief, vitiligo is not life-threatening or contagious. Learning more about vitiligo and working with your doctor to find the right treatment can help you understand your condition better and feel more in control.
What is Vitiligo?
Vitiligo causes the loss of skin color in patchy areas all over the body. The hair and inside of the mouth can also be affected. Melanin determines the color of the hair and skin. In vitiligo, the cells that make the pigment stop functioning or die.
Discoloration typically affects the most sun-exposed areas first such as hands, feet, arms, face, and lips. The discolored patches may be on many parts of your body, on just one side of the body, or only a few areas. In most cases, pigment loss spreads gradually, eventually covering most of the body. In some cases, new patches can stop forming without notice or treatment. It is rare for the skin color to come back once gone.
Who Can Get Vitiligo?
Vitiligo is not picky, affecting people of all skin types and ages, although more noticeable on darker skin. It most often appears before the age of twenty. Family history, or a triggering event like sunburn, stress, or exposure to industrial chemicals, increases your risk of developing it.
How Is Vitiligo Diagnosed?
A dermatologist should do a proper and thorough evaluation and diagnosis as they specialize in different skin disorders. Your doctor will rule out other conditions during the visual exam and may take a skin sample of the affected area along with some blood.
What are the Treatment Options for Vitiligo?
Treatments for vitiligo consist of three options alone or in combination. These aim to restore pigmentation, camouflage the white patches, or eradicate remaining color to have all white skin. Unfortunately, no current treatment can stop the loss of pigment cells, and it may be months before you can tell if a treatment is effective. Your doctor will review which option(s) is best for you as some therapies are permanent and come with side effects.
What is Clinical Research Doing for Vitiligo?
There is no cure for vitiligo, and available treatments only temporarily reverse symptoms in most instances. Clinical research is needed to learn more about therapies that carry the possibility of more permanent results. Current solutions being considered to include medications that potentially help reverse the loss of color by using a rheumatoid arthritis treatment. Others are focused on stimulating the growth of pigment-producing cells.
ForCare is currently enrolling participants in a research study for a potential new vitiligo treatment option. To learn more, call (813) 264-2155, or click here.