Everything you ever wanted to know about vitiligo and never asked

In the next blog we will cover the subject of vitiligo, a disease that can be acquired at any time in life, it is chronic and of unknown cause, that can affect all people regardless of race or sex.

What is vitiligo?

It is a disease that affects the skin generating areas of hypopigmentation (white skin) or achromia (without color), it appears more frequently between 10 to 30 years. It can start around a mole (Sutton’s nevus) or it can appear on any part of the body with a predominance in areas exposed to the sun such as the face, neck and hands. As a curious fact, vitiligo comes from the Latin “vitum” which means spot.

We don’t know the cause?

Despite the multiple studies carried out, it has not been possible to find an etiology (origin) of the disease. It is suspected that it is multifactorial, this implies that more than one event is associated to make the disease appear, among the possible causes we find neurological, genetic and autoimmune disorders.

Does that mean that if a family member of mine has vitiligo, I will have it?

The disease is multifactorial, so, factors other than genetics are required for you to present the disease. What you should know is that you have a slightly higher risk than the rest of the population, in some studies up to 4.5 times the risk of presenting the disease.

What are the symptoms of vitiligo?

Vitiligo is characterized by the presence of whitish lesions that may or may not be associated with pain or itching (pruritus). They usually appear in areas such as the groin, hands, face, genital area and armpits.

Vitiligo. Bibliography 1

Is there more than one type of vitiligo?

Yes, doctors have various qualifications for the disease, depending on the location, the way of distribution or the percentage of the skin affected. Among them: 

  • Segmental
  • Non segmental
    • Generalized
    • Disseminated
    • Local

What diseases are associated with vitiligo?

From other skin alterations such as alopecia areata, poliosis (lock of white hair) and dermatitis, to autoimmune entities such as systemic lupus erythematosus, endocrinological diseases such as type I diabetes mellitus and others.

Poliosis. Bibliography 1.

How is vitiligo diagnosed?

The diagnosis is practically clinical, that means that no tests are needed to confirm the disease, however, due to the association with other diseases, your family physician may request certain laboratory tests to rule out other entities.

If I get vitiligo, what can I do?

The first thing you should know is that vitiligo improves without intervention in about 44% of people, that implies that 4/10 patients will heal itself, however, the remaining 56% may require management with medications such as topical corticosteroids or phototherapy which must be ordered by your family doctor and in rare severe cases need surgical procedures.

Medical personnel can refer to bibliography 3 to read drug presentations and proper use of topical steroids. It is recommended that everyone with vitiligo be evaluated by a dermatologist.

I feel sad about having vitiligo…

If this is the case, request an appointment with your family doctor for a psychology assessment, which will help you by giving recommendations to handle this situation.

Bibliography

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