- by Dr Vivekananda Bhat
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- Mar 06 2017
What are the Clinical Features of Vitiligo and treatment
What is Vitiligo?
Simply put, Discoloration of the skin – Vitiligo in patches because of depigmentation. The patches are most commonly seen on the face, lips, insides of the mouth, extremities and the back.
Although relatively harmless, Vitiligo is more of a social disease as it affects the personal appearance of the patients and deteriorates their social life owing to the perceived taboo that it might be a communicable disease.
Occurrence of Vitiligo
Vitiligo affects around 1% of the world population and can be seen in all races. However, it looks more prominent in people with darker skin for obvious reasons.
The reason for concern however, is that it occurs more in people below the age of 20, and may also be related to other autoimmune disorders later in life like diabetes, thyroid disease, Rheumatoid arthritis, Lupus and Alopecia Areata etc.
On noticing white patches on the body or face, a medical diagnosis can help in determining the cause as Vitiligo and present treatment options available for the patient. It has been observed that white patches occur more on parts exposed to the sun. The severity and rate of pigment loss varies from person to person and cannot be predicted.
What Causes Vitiligo
Although the underlying reason causing Vitiligo is not fully known, the white patches occur due to the loss or destruction of pigment-producing cells in the skin called Melanocytes. The theories for its causes may be related to a systemic autoimmune disorder or abnormal functioning of nerve cells resulting in damage to pigment cells or event the pigment cells destroying themselves.
Vitiligo Pathogenesis and Treatment
Vitiligo clinical features can be as mild as a single patch on the skin to as severe as the multiple patches large enough to cover the entire limbs, face or other body parts.
The common sites are the body parts that are exposed, body folds, lips, nipples and private parts.
Vitiligo tends to occur more often at the sites of extreme sun exposure, abrasion, cuts, places of physical shock to the skin, something that is known as Koebner Phenomena.
Many other factors like emotional stress can also make Vitiligo flare up.
The white patches if untreated may grow bigger and show up at multiple places, even affecting the hair follicles and turning them grey.
There is no fixed pattern of progression of the disease as the patches may be seen to come in cycles and then slow down, in rare cases re-pigmentation is also noticed.
The patients with prominently visible patches may have to seek medical treatment and other concealing methods like make up and clothing.
White patches on Face – Treatment and Cost
Other than the white patches, there are no other symptoms or pain related to Vitiligo. A person diagnosed with Vitiligo can face emotional stress as it is incurable and affects physical appearance, but the disease is not life threatening or contagious.
Treatment of Vitiligo on Face – Cost
The Treatment For Vitiligo is targeted towards restoring the color of the patches. Choice of treatment depends on factors like location, size and numbers of white patches on the face.
Although there is no set standard for treating Vitiligo and not every treatment option will show the same result in different patients, patients seek a treatment that gives long termed solution with minimum side effects for a better appearance of the face.
Medical treatment options include – skin creams, oral medicine, treatment using Ultraviolet A(UVA) light(PUVA), discoloration of surrounding skin area and surgical options like skin grafting.
The cost of each treatment varies, since treatment options like surgery and UVA are more expensive as compared to skin creams and medicine. Many patients often combine different therapies for better results.
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