Vitiligo Awareness Month

According to the Global Vitiligo Foundation, 70 million people around the globe have vitiligo. Yet, that’s less than 2% of the entire world population, making it a rare skin condition. 

And although vitiligo is often viewed as a cosmetic problem, there’s certainly more to it. Read on to learn more about this medical condition. 

What is Vitiligo? 

Melanocytes are cells in the skin responsible for creating pigment. Vitiligo occurs when these cells die, resulting in lighter or completely white skin patches. Although these can appear anywhere on the body, they commonly occur around the eyes and mouth, on hands and fingers, toes, elbows, knees, and the lower back. 

Vitiligo rarely goes away and the loss of skin color is permanent. However, with time, disease progression tends to slow or stop altogether. 

Who is at Risk of Vitiligo?

Vitiligo affects people of all ages, genders, and races equally. The skin condition is more noticeable among individuals with darker skin tones. And close to half of all people with vitiligo report being diagnosed before 21.

The American Academy of Dermatology states that a person’s risk of developing vitiligo increases if the individual has an autoimmune disease (like Hashimoto’s disease or alopecia areata) or if there is a family history of vitiligo.

Causes of Vitiligo

We have yet to discover exactly what causes melanocyte cells to die and vitiligo to occur. However, scientists think it could be a combination of:

  • genetics
  • autoimmune diseases
  • stress

Vitiligo Treatment Options

Although there is no cure for vitiligo, numerous treatment options that minimize the appearance of lighter skin patches are available today. Topical medications can be used for smaller patches of depigmented skin, while light therapy is often recommended for larger areas. 

If topical medications or light therapy doesn’t work and a patient has widespread patches of white skin, bleaching areas that haven’t lost color from vitiligo is a permanent option. 

How to Care for Your Skin When You Have Vitiligo

The depigmented white patches of skin caused by vitiligo are highly sensitive to sun exposure. Individuals with vitiligo should take steps to protect their skin from UV rays by: 

  • Use a broad-spectrum, water-resistant sunscreen with SPF 30 or higher every day.
  • Reapplying sunscreen every two hours, after sweating and/or being in water. 
  • Wearing protective clothing, hats, and sunglasses when outdoors. 
  • Seeking shade often when outdoors. 
  • Avoiding tanning beds.

Minimizing sun exposure is something dermatologists talk about often, but it’s that much more important for those with vitiligo to remember. 

A Care Plan You Can Feel Good About 

Vitiligo is not life-threatening. However, it can put you at higher risk for other medical conditions, which is why seeing a board-certified dermatologist is highly recommended.

Plus, when you make an appointment with a Deerfield Dermatology skincare provider, you’ll have an expert to help you sift through treatment options, lifestyle tips, resources, and more to create a care plan that fits your unique skin care needs. Schedule an appointment today!