Vitiligo is a chronic skin condition that causes the loss of pigmentation in irregular shaped blotches and patches that is surrounded by normal skin tone. One out of every 200 Americans has an area of their body affected by vitiligo. While this harmless condition isn’t a dangerous health concern, some may consider it disfiguring, particularly when it affects a person’s face and arms.
Characterized by white patches that can vary greatly by size and location, people with vitiligo may feel uncomfortable or even ashamed of this visible condition. Currently, there isn’t a known cure for vitiligo but the good news is that there are innovative treatments available at Nashville Skin that can reduce the appearance and symptoms. Our team of expert practitioners has extensive training and experience getting long-term improvements with skin conditions like vitiligo.
What is Vitiligo?
A person may be diagnosed with vitiligo if they experience patches of skin that turn lighter in color than their normal skin color or if areas begin to lack pigment altogether. While these white patches are not actively harmful, they can not only cause psychological distress from perceived imperfections but also increase the risk of sunburns and dry, itchy skin. This condition is considered chronic but the advancements in medical treatments offer patients a variety of options that can help manage the symptoms and appearance of the skin.
What Causes Vitiligo?
Vitiligo occurs when the body’s immune systems sends signals to the brain to destroy cells in the skin that produce melanin. In most cases, the cause of vitiligo may remain unknown. There are some factors that have been known to trigger this destruction of melanin, including:
- Hormone imbalances
- Certain autoimmune diseases
Vitiligo may show up anywhere on the body but it is most visible on the face and arms. With skin that is darker in complexion, vitiligo more noticeable and more difficult to camouflage with cosmetics.
Unfortunately, the loss of pigment may continue to spread with aging. While there currently isn’t a way to prevent developing vitiligo, there are specific, cutting-edge treatments that can help give improvement for the depigmentation in affected areas.
How Can Nashville Skin Improve the Loss of Pigmentation?
The first step towards improving the appearance of vitiligo is scheduling an evaluation with one of our practitioners at Nashville Skin to determine the extent of your depigmentation as well as your desired outcomes. There are several medical dermatology treatments available to improve vitiligo and usually, a combination approach is needed to get long-term improvement. Some of the advanced techniques that we use at Nashville Skin include:
Steroids are a short-term treatment that can give temporary improvement to the appearance of the skin and partially restore normal pigment. The downside to steroid treatments is that a patient needs to continue its use to maintain the drug’s benefits.
Immunosuppressant medications, also called calcineurin inhibitors, such as cyclosporine, work by preventing the immune system from attacking the melanin, which has been shown to help partially re-pigment specific areas. While immunosuppressants may give improvement, as with any oral medication, there is a risk of developing potential side effects.
UVB Light Therapy
UVB light, also called phototherapy, is the “gold standard” treatment to help trigger re-pigmentation in large areas of white patches. Our practitioners prescribe this treatment if you have depigmentation over large areas of your body.
Another option for improving white patches is with a skin grafting technique that involves melanocyte-keratinocyte transplantation, which takes a small sample of skin cells from a normally pigmented area of the body (usually the thigh) and transfers them to the affected area. This is a good option for patients whose symptoms have ceased spreading.
Q. Are there different types of vitiligo?
A. Yes, there are three different types of vitiligo:
Localized: When only one or two parts of the body are affected by small patches of depigmentation.
Segmental: When one or more white patches form on one side or segment on the body. This most often occurs with children.
Generalized: This is the most common type of vitiligo and occurs when white patches form all over the skin.
Q. Who gets vitiligo?
A. It is unknown what causes vitiligo but it can happen regardless of sex, race, or age. The most well-known vitiligans (people with vitiligo) include The King of Pop Michael Jackson, top model Winnie Harlow, and actor Jon Hamm.
Q. I have a white spot, is that vitiligo?
A. No, not all areas of depigmentation are vitiligo. A clinical diagnosis is needed to determine the cause of your white spots or patches.
Restore Your Skin in Nashville
If you’re experiencing white patches and suspect you have vitiligo, contact us today at one of our convenient Nashville locations (21st Avenue S., Southern Hills Medical Center, Centennial Medical Center and St. Thomas Medical Center – Lennox Village), or our Clarksville office to schedule a formal evaluation for diagnosis and customized treatment plan. Vitiligo is a complex skin condition but with the most advanced treatment options, long-term improvements are just a consultation away.
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