Vitiligo is a skin disease that causes loss of skin color and pigment.
This disease makes the color of the skin uneven. There appears to be dark patches in different areas of the skin.
This condition is much more noticeable in dark skinned people and less noticeable in fair skinned people.
Nevertheless, even at that fair people that have vitiligo can still be very well detected.
Vitiligo affects all the parts of the body including the hair, hands, leg e.t.c.
Vitiligo is not a painful ailment but can really affect the self esteem of the patient thereby leading to psychological stress.
The cause of the condition is unknown. It’s believed that vitiligo occurs when the melanocytes that is responsible for the production of melanin (The skin coloring pigment) stops working. Some people also believe that it is genetic susceptibility that is triggered by environmental factors such that an autoimmune disease occurs.
Vitiligo is not contagious and so there is no need to stigmatize or avoid people who have this condition.
It is broadly divided into two major types;
- Segmental vitiligo
- Non-segmental vitiligo
The segmental vitiligo affects areas of the skin that are associated with dorsal roots and spinal cord. The treatment of segmental vitiligo is very different from that of non-segmental. Its relationship to autoimmune diseases is weaker compared to non-segmental vitiligo.
In this type of vitligo, there is symmetry in the location of the blotches. Non-segmental vitiligo can occur in any age unlike segmental which is predominant in teenagers.
Most of the cases of vitiligo are non-segmental meaning that affect both sides of the body and the affected areas usually expand and expand to the other parts of the body on the long run.
Non-segmental vitiligo is further classified into;
Generalized vitiligo: The patches in this class are wide and widely distributed in areas of the body.
Universal vitiligo: The appearance of patches occurs in almost all part of the body, leaving only few body areas pigmented.
Acrofacial vitiligo: This is predominant in the fingers and periorificial areas.
Mucosal vitiligo: This occurs only in the mucous membranes in the body.
Signs and symptoms
The only noticeable sign and symptom of vitiligo is the dark patches or discoloration on the body.
The patches are often small during the early stage of the condition but tend to enlarge and grow bigger with time.
This loss of skin pigmentation is often noticeable around the body orifices such as mouth, nose, genitalia and the umbilicus though they are not limited to these areas.
Actually there is no cure for vitiligo but many treatment options are available for proper management of this condition.
The most appropriate evidence comes from the application of cortical steroids and the combination of ultraviolet light (Phototherapy) in the treatment
But due to the higher risks of skin cancer posed by ultraviolet light, it is advisable to effect treatment with ultraviolet light when topical steroids have proven to be ineffective.
The topical preparation used includes glucocorticoids (such as 0.05% of clobetasol or 0.1% betamethasone) and calcineurin inhibitors.
In mild cases, vitiligo patches can also be hidden with cosmetic camouflage solutions.
Also in cases of extensive vitiligo the option to depigment the unaffected skin with topical drugs like monobenzone, mequinol or hydroquinone can be considered in a bid to restoring the skin to an even color.
Depigmentation takes about one year to complete and the process is one which requires sun-safety to avoid severe sunburn and melanomas.
How the society sees vitiligo
A patient who is affected with vitiligo is often faced with serious emotional and psychological stress due to the change in appearance of the skin.
This emotional is more predominant mostly when vitilgo appears in visible parts of the body like hands, leg, neck or face.
The society most at times tends to view people with vitiligo as patients of a very contagious disease which is not true because vitiligo is not contagious so patients can still continue with their normal lives as its not painful or discomforting in anyway.
We should play the role of making this people feel at home as such will help build their self esteem.
Our ability to accept fellow human just the way they are is the foundation on which our humanity is built.