Vitiligo is a pigmentation disorder in which melanocytes (the cells that make pigment) in the skin are destroyed. As a result, white patches appear on the skin in different parts of the body, the mucous membranes (tissues that line the inside of the mouth and nose), and the retina (inner layer of the eyeball). The hair that grows on areas affected by vitiligo sometimes turns white.
The cause of vitiligo is not known.
About 0.5 to 1 percent of the world’s population has vitiligo. Half the people who have vitiligo develop it before age 20; most develop it before their 40th birthday. Vitiligo seems to be somewhat more common in people with certain autoimmune diseases. These autoimmune diseases include hyperthyroidism (an overactive thyroid gland), adrenocortical insufficiency (the adrenal gland does not produce enough of the hormone called corticosteroid), alopecia areata (patches of baldness), and pernicious anemia (a low level of red blood cells caused by the failure of the body to absorb vitamin B12).
Vitiligo may also be hereditary.30 percent of people with vitiligo have a family member with the disease.
People who develop vitiligo usually first notice white patches (depigmentation) on their skin.
Vitiligo generally appears in one of three patterns:
Physical examination reveals white patches of skin on the body-particularly on sun-exposed areas, including the hands, feet, arms, face, and lips.
Important factors in the diagnosis include a family history of vitiligo; a rash, sunburn, or other skin trauma at the site of vitiligo 2 to 3 months before depigmentation started; stress or physical illness; and premature (before age 35) graying of the hair.
A biopsy of the affected skin will usually show a complete absence of pigment-producing melanocytes.
Because vitiligo may be associated with pernicious anemia or hyperthyroidism check the blood-cell count and thyroid function.
For some patients, the doctor may recommend an eye examination to check for uveitis (inflammation of part of the eye), which sometimes occurs with vitiligo.
Therapy for vitiligo takes a long time-it usually must be continued for 6 to 18 months. The choice of therapy depends on the number of white patches; their location, sizes, and how widespread they are; and what you prefer in terms of treatment. Each patient responds differently to therapy, and a particular treatment may not work for everyone. Current treatment options for vitiligo include medical, surgical, and adjunctive therapies.
They are appropriate only for carefully selected patients who have vitiligo that has been stable for at least 3 years:
Additional therapies: Sunscreens, Cosmetic camouflage, Counselling and support groups. Eximer laser 318 nm has been found to be effective in treating localized stable vitiligo especially of the hair bearing areas.
The cost of the treatment depends upon the type of treatment followed. Since Laser treatments require multiple sessions, they may come up to be a bit expensive as compared to other modes of treatment.
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