Vitiligo is a common skin condition associated with depigmentation of parts of the skin, characterized by presence of white patches on the skin. It’s caused by destruction of pigment bearing cells of skin called melanocytes by yet incompletely known mechanism. Any part of the body may be involved but involvement of lips, hands and feet are there in most rasistant cases. The purpose of treatment is to aesthetic improvement of skin lesions. A treatment plan (medical, surgical and adjunctive therapies) can be individualized for the patient, depending upon the size, number and location of white patches.
In most of the cases, medical therapy is used to stop the destruction of pigment containing cells and to bring back pigment in the affected areas. Medications shall only be taken after consulting the dermatologist.
1.PUVA therapy: This method is mostly used for treatment of the widespread vitiligo. UVA light coupled with a medicine psoralen is used to restore the colour of the skin. This treatment requires supervision of a dermatologist.
2.NBUVB therapy: This method has become the treatment of choice for a wide range of population. It is therapeutically more effective with minimal side-effects.
3.Excimer laser: If medication does not seem to achieve desired result, teatment with 308 nm excimer laser can be used. Laser treatments give effective result within the expected time duration. In this method, laser is used to repigment the skin and restore the colour.
Surgical treatments include grafting. Basic purpose is to donate or introduce normal, functioning melanocytes to the depimented skin. These functioning melanocytes are then expected to produce melanin pigment with eventual repigmentation of the vitiliginous skin.
Frequently asked questions
1.How can one get vitiligo?
Vitiligo is caused by autoimmune response in genetically predispose individual. The exact cause of vitiligo is unknown but triggers like trauma, stress, chemical exposure may trigger melanocytes self distraction, predisposing individual to develop vitiligo.
- Can vitiligo spread to family members or contacts?
No, vitiligo is not transmissible to family members or contacts and it’s not contagious in any way which means it does not spread by touch. Vitiligo is caused by multiple factors, so inheritance pattern is complex. On a average 20-30% of all vitiligo patients have at least one close relative affected by vitiligo.
- How does vitiligo look like ? What areas of the body are affected?
Vitiligo present as asymptomatic white patch of skin with variable number of depimented hair without any textural changes of skin. Vitiligo can affect the skin at different area of the body and depending upon this different types are seen.
Lip-tip vitiligo :involvement of lips and tips of fingers/toes
Segmental vitiligo :involvement of the area of body in linear fashion
Focal vitiligo :small localised area of skin is involved
Generalised vitiligo :large area of body is involved
- Can vitiligo be cured?
Vitiligo is an autoimmune disease therefore it can not be fully cured. Different treatment modalities are available which can slow it’s progression and in many cases prevent further spread of disease. Proper treatments and regular follow up with dermatologist increase the chances of complete pigmentation.
- Is there any option for patients awaiting results of medical & surgical therapy or not interested in medical and surgical treatment?
Yes, cosmetic comouflage or tattooing with color the shade of patient’s skin can be a good alternative. After application, vitiligo lesions are barely visible.