Vitiligo: Types, Symptoms, Causes, Treatment Methods
Vitiligo is one of the disorders that physically affects the human body. Vitiligo is a skin condition and occurs due to pigment deficiency. It spreads throughout the body in various ways, but does not pose a health risk. Although there are studies to eliminate these light-colored spots with the developments in the field of health, there is no clear treatment and it is not preventable. You can read the rest of our article to learn more about vitiligo, which has different types depending on the region and spread.
What is Vitiligo?
The presence of light-colored spots on the body is called vitiligo. In some cases, melanocyte cells that produce melanin, which gives the body its color, are destroyed by the body’s immune system. Colorless spots begin to form in areas where melanin cannot be produced. While these spots generally occur on the hands, face and arms, they can also be observed in areas such as genitals, hair and eyebrows. These non-contagious, colorless spots may spread throughout the body after they start to form, or they may only remain at the starting points. Although vitiligo does not cause pain, the spots that appear in sun-exposed areas may itch and swell due to the sun’s effects.
What are the Types of Vitiligo?
Vitiligo is divided into types depending on how it spreads. Vitiligo, which can be seen in all age groups, can be seen in many parts of the body.
Non-segmental vitiligo is also called bilateral vitiligo and refers to the presence of symmetrical discoloration on both sides of the body. It is also known as bilateral vitiligo and is usually seen on the back of the hands, around the eyes, knees, elbows and feet. It continues to spread symmetrically over time. It is also one of the most common types of vitiligo.
Segmental vitiligo is seen unilaterally, in contrast to non-segmental vitiligo. The discolouration is found in only one part of the body. This type of vitiligo, which can start at an early age, stops after spreading to a certain point. It is also a type of vitiligo that is more common in children. In addition to skin discoloration, it can also affect hair and eyebrows.
It is a condition in which discolored areas occur in only one or a few points of the body. Localized vitiligo does not spread and covers small areas.
Generalized vitiligo, unlike localized vitiligo, spreads to many areas. Most areas of the body contain discolored patches.
I have vitiligo
In the very rare type of full vitiligo, there is almost no real skin color on the body. Almost the entire body is covered with cells devoid of melanin and is colorless.
What are the symptoms of Vitiligo and what causes it?
Vitiligo is a condition caused by a deficiency of melanin pigment. It occurs when there are not enough melanocytes to produce melanin and develops independently of factors such as race, gender and age. Although the reasons for the destruction of melanocytes are not fully known, there are ideas about the reasons. The first of these is autoimmune conditions. In autoimmune conditions, because the immune system does not work properly, it attacks the body’s healthy cells, and melanocytes may also be affected in the process. Apart from causes, there are also risk factors for vitiligo. These factors include a family history of vitiligo, the presence of an autoimmune disease, melanoma or non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma. Other causes are environmental factors such as oxidative stress caused by antioxidant imbalance or sunburn. Apart from these factors, conditions such as cuts and scrapes can also cause small patches of vitiligo. There are also symptoms that play a role in the diagnosis of vitiligo. These symptoms can be listed as follows:
- Light color around the mouth and eyes.
- Discolouration of fingers and wrists.
- Discoloration in the armpit, groin and genital area.
- Discolouration in the mouth and hair.
- An inflamed brownish appearance around the patch.
- Skin dryness.
- Graying of eyelashes and beard.
- Rarely itchy spots.
How Is Vitiligo Diagnosed?
Usually, vitiligo begins with small spots that can spread throughout the body over a few months. Light-colored spots formed in vitiligo can be easily seen by eye. However, to make sure that these spots are caused by vitiligo, a wood lamp that emits ultraviolet light can be used. Medical history is also reviewed for diagnosis. When these spots started to appear, whether they are in only one area, whether the person has autoimmune disorders such as hypothyroidism, type 1 diabetes, and other diseases for which he is treated are some of the medical history examined. In some cases, a biopsy may be needed for diagnosis. Because rarely, this condition is one of the symptoms caused by T-cell lymphoma. As a result of the biopsy, it is examined whether there is a cancer cell that causes light discoloration on the skin. If this is not the case, you can be sure that the cause is vitiligo. A blood test may also be ordered to find out if there is an autoimmune disease causing vitiligo. After vitiligo is diagnosed, tests can be performed to measure its severity. These include two tests based on score scoring. However, these tests cannot give a clear result and are used as an aid to diagnosis.
How to Treat Vitiligo?
Although vitiligo is not a treatable disease, practices such as reducing the skin’s exposure to sunlight can increase the person’s comfort. There is no medicine or vaccine that affects the course of vitiligo disease. However, in some cases, uncertain treatment methods may help restore some of the color pigments. Some of these methods include medications. These drugs are drugs that specifically affect the immune system. Doctors may recommend using medications together with phototherapy to ensure their functionality. Phototherapy used together with corticosteroids or calcineurin inhibitor drugs begins to work after 1-3 months of treatment. However, although there is no certainty of phototherapy treatment, redness, itching and burning are among the possible side effects. Another method is to apply a depigmentation agent to the affected areas of the skin. This process is performed to minimize the color difference between colored and colorless regions. Dark areas are gradually lightened, making the difference between colorless areas and colored areas less noticeable.
Apart from phototherapy, medications and color equalization procedures, there is also the option of surgical operation. One of these procedures is skin grafting. Transfer is made from normal tissues to small amounts of vitiligo spots on the body. This procedure is also called tissue transplantation and can help color discolored areas. The other procedure is suspension cell transplantation. In this treatment, the doctor takes a piece of tissue from the pigmented skin and transfers it to the affected area. This treatment is repeated for a while and results can be obtained within an average of 1 month. However, no method offers a definitive treatment and has its difficulties. Apart from treatment possibilities, options to eliminate the difference in appearance such as camouflage are generally applied, and depending on the person’s wishes, the image can be covered with make-up materials. However, if the person is not disturbed by this situation, which does not pose a health risk, the necessary applications can be made only on the areas exposed to sunlight. High-protection sunscreens reduce tanning and show less color transitions, while preventing sensitive discolored spots from being damaged and becoming red and swollen.
Studies are continuing to treat vitiligo, which affects the person’s physical appearance but is a harmless and not contagious disease. It is accepted that there is no cure until treatment options, which vary from person to person, become clear. However, the appearance can be corrected and color diversity can be eliminated with various make-up products.