Vitiligo causes loss of color. Your dermatologist may call this “loss of pigment” or “depigmentation.” We can lose pigment anywhere on our bodies, including our:
Most people who get vitiligo lose color on their skin. The affected skin can lighten or turn completely white. Many people do not have any other signs or symptoms; they feel healthy.
A few people say that the skin affected by vitiligo itches or feels painful.
Living with vitiligo can cause other symptoms such as low self-esteem and depression that is hard to beat. This can happen regardless of the amount of color loss or type of vitiligo.
Who gets vitiligo?
Millions of people worldwide have vitiligo. Nearly half get it before they reach 21 years of age. Most will have vitiligo for the rest of their lives. It is very rare for vitiligo to disappear.
Vitiligo occurs about equally in people of all skin colors and races. About half the people who get vitiligo are male and half are female.
The risk of getting vitiligo increases if a person has:
- A close blood relative who has vitiligo.
- An autoimmune disease, especially Hashimoto’s disease (a thyroid disease) or alopecia areata (causes hair loss).
How do dermatologists diagnose vitiligo?
If your dermatologist suspects that you have vitiligo, your dermatologist will:
- Review your medical history, and may ask specific questions such as whether anyone in your family has vitiligo.
- Perform a physical exam, looking carefully at the affected skin.
You also may need a blood test to check the health of your thyroid gland. People who have vitiligo often have an autoimmune thyroid disease. A blood test will tell whether your thyroid is healthy. If you have thyroid disease, treatment can successfully control it.
How do dermatologists treat vitiligo?
If you have vitiligo, you should discuss treatment options with your dermatologist. There are many treatment options. The goal of most treatments is to restore lost skin color.
Here are some key facts about treatment options to help you start a conversation with your dermatologist. The type of treatment that is best for you will depend on your preference, overall health, age and where the vitiligo appears on your body. Some people choose not to treat vitiligo.
1. No medical treatment (use cosmetics to add lost color)
2. Medicine applied to the skin
3. Light treatment
4. PUVA light therapy
6. Unconventional treatment
It is not possible to predict how a patient will respond to treatment. It is important to keep in mind that no one treatment works for everyone. Results can vary from one part of the body to another. Combining two or more treatments often gives the best results.