What is Vitiligo and How Do You Know if You Have It?

November 6, 2019

Milky white patches on the skin, sometimes small at first, are a signal to see a professional. The first signs of vitiligo, people occasionally are born with them. More often they appear later – at any age and to people of every ethnicity. The white patches of vitiligo often spread, sometimes rapidly and sometimes over the course of months or years. Premature loss of color in the hair or eyebrows can be vitiligo, too, because its appearance comes from the loss of melanin – the pigment that gives skin, hair and eyes their color.

Thankfully, there are treatments that can mitigate the effects of vitiligo, but its causes are still debated to some extent. Many who have studied vitiligo understand it to be a disorder of the body’s autoimmune system, in which cells called melanocytes, which normally stimulate production of melanin, are attacked. Stress and other emotional conditions are frequently part of the story of vitiligo’s onset or spread, and family history plays a part, too. Sunburn, or exposure to industrial chemicals can be trigger events.

Vitiligo is not contagious or life-threatening, but its effects on a person’s sense of well-being can be serious. Part of the suffering comes from the fact that vitiligo is so unpredictable. Sometimes the patches stop forming, even without treatment. In rare cases, the condition can suspend or cease and the skin gets its color back. Usually, however, the white patches do spread, and eventually they may involve most of a person’s skin.

Some Answers Await

A light treatment, called Xtrac, can be effective in reducing the affected areas and improving the overall coloration of the skin. If your board-certified dermatologist determines that you suffer from vitiligo, he or she may try a number of treatments, including topical medications, to discover which will best combat your symptoms.

In Xtrac therapy, a precisely targeted, high dose of ultraviolet light is applied to the affected tissue through a handpiece that rests directly on the skin. Treatment takes only about five minutes, and a series of six to 10 treatments are typically used to reduce the appearance of vitiligo. Xtrac treatments have the useful property that they can warm and stimulate pigment production in the affected tissues with almost no heating or change to the surrounding skin, because the applicator is so specific.

No Need to Feel Helpless

The condition of vitiligo does not have to bring with it the added anguish of helplessness. While the cause may be elusive, the ability to take steps that minimize it is within your grasp.

At Dermatology Consultants, we offer you understanding. Our practice is devoted to helping people experience the best of the life they want to live. Through our professional achievement, training, and experience, you’ll find here a full array of options for achieving that, plus the understanding to guide you in deciding which ones are right for you. Just contact one of our three locations to get started.

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