What is Vitiligo?

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    The pigment forming cells (melanocytes) produce melanin, the pigment that gives colour to our skin. When these melanocytes are destroyed without any obvious cause, a part of the skin appears white in colour. This is known as Vitiligo.

    Can every white patch be that of Vitiligo?

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    Every white patch cannot be Vitiligo; white patches on the skin (leucoderma) may be due to various causes like birth marks, post burns, due to some chemicals etc. Vitiligo is just one of them.

    What is the difference between Vitiligo and leprosy?

    Vitiligo and leprosy are two different conditions, Leprosy is an infection caused by a bacteria in which the patient develops light coloured patches with loss of sensation and loss of hair over these patches. Vitiligo on the other hand occurs because of loss of the melanin from the skin.

    What is the cause of Vitiligo?

    The cause of Vitiligo is not yet known. However, many scientists and researchers believe that autoimmunity (self-destruction of melanocytes) is a possible cause. Others relate the onset of Vitiligo to emotional trauma due to accident, death, divorce etc.

    What are the symptoms of Vitiligo?

    Vitiligo results in white patches over certain parts of body e.g. face forearms, hands, feet, lips etc. These patches are usually asymptomatic, although some patients may experience itching, burning and redness on sun exposure.

    Is Vitiligo contagious?

    No, Vitiligo is not contagious. Thus, a person with Vitiligo can even get married and have a normal life.

    Who can be affected by Vitiligo?

    Almost anybody can be affected by Vitiligo, irrespective of age, sex and race. About 1 – 2% of the world’s population has this condition.

    Is Vitiligo an inherited condition?

    It is noticed that 5 – 30% of Vitiligo patients have a family history of Vitiligo, therefore it is difficult to say if Vitiligo is not an inherited condition.

    Are there any other conditions related to Vitiligo?

    Conditions like thyroid disorders, diabetes, anemia, alopecia etc. can be found in association with Vitiligo.

    Can hair be affected by Vitiligo?

    Sometimes the hair overlying the Vitiligo patches may lose their pigment and thus may turn white.

    Are diet and Vitiligo related?

    Vitiligo does not occur due to any dietary deficiency.

    What are the treatment options available?

    Currently there are a number of treatment options available as compared to the past – PUVA therapy, Psoralen cream or solution, steroid creams, narrow brand UVB, skin grafting, and pigment transplantation.

    Are there any areas of Vitiligo that are harder to treat?

    It has been observed that patches on fingers, toes, palms and soles, on bony prominences are more difficult to treat than other areas. Also, Vitiligo patches with overlying white hair are of concern in the treatment.

    Are there any cosmetics available to cover-up Vitiligo spots?

    Nowadays, a number of camouflage creams are available which can be applied over Vitiligo patches to match the patient’s natural skin colour. However these creams are of temporary nature, they last for a few hours to few days.

    Dr. Rajshri Ritesh Gachkal

    Dermatologist and Cosmetologist

    Bahrain Specialist Hospital Clinics, West Riffa

    Email: rajshri.gachkal@bsh.com.bh