Vitiligo is one of the skin pigmentation disorders, an autoimmune disease characterized by depigmented, well-circumscribed milky white macules.

Vitiligo can affect anyone irrespective of race and gender. This type of depigmentation can occur in different body areas, especially on the face, hands, arms, genitals, and buttocks. Often, the loss of skin color happens symmetrically such as in both knees and hands.

However, some people experience discoloration on their scalp, inside the mouth, or on their eyebrows and eyelashes. Those who are dark-skinned show a significant contrast between their normal skin tone and white patches. Read on to learn more on vitiligo and its treatment with Dr. Nivedita Dadu, Vitiligo Specialist in Delhi at Dadu Medical Centre.

Cause of Vitiligo

Vitiligo is the result of an absence of melanin- a colored pigment responsible for providing skin its natural color. Melanin is produced by specialized cells called melanocytes. The reason behind the lack of melanin in some body areas remains unknown. However, the researchers believe vitiligo to be a result of:

  • An autoimmune condition- It is a disease wherein the immune system starts attacking the healthy melanocytes in the skin by mistaking them as foreign invaders. The immune system overreacts and starts developing immunoglobulins against the skin melanocytes, there leading to depigmentation.
  • Genetic changes- A gene mutation or change in the body’s genetic makeup may impair the functioning of the melanocytes.
  • Environmental triggers- The skin’s exposure to toxic chemicals or UV radiation can affect the function of melanocytes.
  • Stress- Under frequent physical stress like after an injury or emotional stress, the amount of melanin produced by melanocytes may change.

Types of vitiligo

Vitiligo condition is broadly categorized into two types based on how the white patches appear on the body. These are:

Non-segmental- This type of vitiligo affects both sides of the body in symmetry. It is the most common type that can affect the back of the hands, elbows, arms, feet, knees, and the skin surrounding body openings, including the eyes.

Segmental- This kind of vitiligo shows up only on one side of the body and usually remains localized in the affected area. It is more common among children than adults.

There are also subtypes of vitiligo, depending upon the extent of loss of skin color or the location of the affected area. These include:

  • Localized- The white skin patches appear only on limited body areas.
  • Generalized- The depigmented patches are scattered all over the body.
  • Universal- The loss of skin color is widespread across the body. This rarely occurs.
  • Focal- The white skin patches remain confined in small body areas. They do not spread for the first two years.
  • Mucosal- The condition affects mucous membranes of the mouth and genitals.
  • Trichome- The skin patches have a white or depigmented smooth center, then a surrounding area of lighter pigmentation, and finally an outer area of natural skin color.

Will vitiligo spread with age?

Vitiligo is a lifetime skin condition that manifests in different ways among individuals. The rate at which skin patches grow depends on the individual and his/her medical condition. Initially, the condition presents as small white patches in a localized area. If there is progression, vitiligo can gradually spread all over the body over time.

Vitiligo is a complicated skin pigmentation concern with many unknowns. It can show up at any age and over time may become more prominent. According to skin experts, there is a greater possibility of depigmentation occurring over large portions of the skin and longer duration. This means there are fewer chances that skin stop losing its melanin pigment or regain its color even without treatment. To date, it is undetermined whether or not vitiligo is associated with aging and the condition could worsen over the years. Curious as to how vitiligo may progress over time? Keep reading to know about how vitiligo may evolve through different life stages with Dr. Nivedita Dadu, Best Skin Doctor In Delhi.

Childhood vitiligo

Researchers believe that most people develop vitiligo during their childhood. As they grow older, their untreated vitiligo may often progress. Often, the depigmentation expands and starts including the normal surrounding skin, or causes the appearance of new patches of discolored skin.

This is also known as non-segmental or generalized vitiligo- the most common type of vitiligo. Children may even develop segmental vitiligo and experience the progress of the condition for 6 to 12 months before stopping.

Children with vitiligo may be treated with phototherapy or the application of topical calcineurin inhibitors and topical corticosteroids in an attempt to restore lost skin color.

Vitiligo during adulthood

Late-onset vitiligo usually refers to patients developing vitiligo after the age of 40 years. Research studies suggest that adults aged above 40 years are more likely to develop generalized vitiligo. They usually experience symptoms on their hands and arms. Another research study has found that women are slightly more likely to develop the condition than men.

Adults with vitiligo can manage their condition with a range of treatment modalities. The treatment options include camouflage therapy, phototherapy, immunosuppressive drugs like oral and topical corticosteroids, and surgeries like skin grafting.

Why is consulting a skin doctor important for vitiligo at any age?

Vitiligo is mainly considered an aesthetic skin concern. However, it may cause complications like sensitive skin, predisposition to other autoimmune diseases, eye abnormalities, and emotional challenges like low esteem, depression, or anxiety. No matter whether there is an effect of aging on vitiligo, a certified dermatologist must be timely consulted upon noticing the symptoms of vitiligo. A dermatologist can help determine the best treatment options for vitiligo that could suit the unique condition of the patient. Also, a dermatologist can prevent complications caused by vitiligo.

Although vitiligo is difficult to treat, a skin doctor like Dr. Nivedita Dadu, Vitiligo Doctor in Delhi can help reduce the appearance of smooth, white patches on different body areas. The effective options include topical immunosuppressants, phototherapy, laser treatments, and topical corticosteroids.

Other less commonly used options are depigmentation and the use of skin grafts. Every patient cannot be treated by one treatment option. The treatment strategies can vary throughout the life of the patient.

Do visit her at the Dadu Medical Centre to learn more!