If you've recently been diagnosed with vitiligo, you may be anxious at the prospect of losing your skin's pigmentation in a way that may be difficult for makeup or strategic hairstyles to disguise.
Fortunately, while there are still many unanswered questions when it comes to the causes and progression of this skin condition, you can take some steps to manage vitiligo before it spreads. Read on to learn more about the causes of vitiligo and what you can do to minimize the more visible side effects of this often-misunderstood skin condition.
What Causes Vitiligo?
Vitiligo is a skin condition marked by the death or disability of melanocytes: the cells in the top few layers of your skin, hair, and eyes that produce pigment. Although this condition can be far more obvious when it strikes people of color, who have a much higher number of melanocytes per square inch of skin, all races and ethnicities are equally susceptible to vitiligo.
While the impact of vitiligo is apparent, doctors still aren't sure what causes a specific person's melanocytes to sustain damage or die. Some individuals have come down with vitiligo after being diagnosed with an autoimmune disorder, while others have had patches of skin lose their pigment after exposure to certain types of factory chemicals or even a serious, blistering sunburn.
If you have a family history of vitiligo, you may be at a higher risk of acquiring this condition.
What Health Problems Can Stem From Vitiligo?
In general, vitiligo doesn't pose any major health risks. However, those who have dealt with this condition will attest that the loss of self-esteem and increase in social anxiety that can come from the development of patchy skin, prematurely graying hair and even a loss of eye color can be upsetting.
Because melanocytes are your skin's primary defense against UV damage from the sun's rays, the loss of melanocytes can put you at a higher risk of sunburn and skin cancer. If the vitiligo affects your eyes, you may also find yourself dealing with vision difficulties like poor night vision or nearsightedness, and others report that vitiligo has caused or accelerated their hearing loss.
Even if you've already lost the pigment in a large area of skin, you can take some preventive steps to restore your skin, slow the effects of this condition and reduce the risk of hearing and vision loss associated with vitiligo.
What Can You Do to Prevent the Spread of This Condition?
Many of the treatments for vitiligo focus on restoring the skin's pigment and improving overall health to boost the immune system. Many doctors believe that a strong immune system will avoid attacking its own pigment-creating epithelial cells.
One treatment that is currently being studied is red light therapy. This treatment blasts the affected areas of skin with a specific frequency of light beams, triggering the dying or dormant melanocytes to begin producing melanin again.
Another treatment option includes topical creams that can restore the skin's elasticity and lighten overall pigmentation, helping achieve a more even (albeit lighter) skin tone. Using these creams regularly should help soften the edges between your vitiligo patches and unaffected skin.
If you're looking for a way to reduce the visible effects of vitiligo on your skin, hair and eyes, you'll want to make an appointment with a dermatologist who has specialized experience in this unusual skin condition.
By contacting a dermatologist like Advanced Dermatology and Skin Cancer Specialists, you'll be able to rest assured you're working with dermatologists who are well-versed in the most cutting-edge vitiligo treatments. Vitiligo doesn’t need to be a tragedy when you have good dermatologists helping you.